Ulster have revealed that Stuart McCloskey and Jordi Murphy will miss their United Rugby Championship clash with Benetton on Friday night.
Both players sat out the province’s 36-3 win over Zebre at the weekend, with Murphy yet to make an appearance this season having been rehabbing an injury over the summer.
While it is unclear whether this is a new injury for Murphy or the continued problem he has been dealing with, the 30-year-old’s absence will be an ongoing concern for head coach Dan McFarland in his back row.
In his absence, the experienced Nick Timoney has held down the fort well, with Greg Jones, Matty Rea, Sean Reidy and David McCann rotating in and out of the other two positions.
McCloskey, meanwhile, suffered a hamstring injury in training last week and will sit out for the second week in a row having played in their season opener against Glasgow Warriors.
That likely means Stewart Moore and James Hume will resume their effective partnership from the Zebre game, although Angus Curtis could come into the equation now he is fully fit after long-term injury last season.
McFarland may also be without Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale for the Benetton clash, who is currently working his way through an ankle issue and will have his availability monitored for Friday’s game.
The same applies to fellow winger Rob Lyttle, who suffered a back injury in training and will also have a decision made on his availability for the Benetton clash closer to Thursday’s team announcement.
Ulster should feel little need to rush either back, though, as they are well served at wing, where they have been getting quality performances from Ethan McIlroy and Craig Gilroy, with Ben Moxham also in the mix.
There is little movement on Ulster’s long-term injury list, which consists of Cormac Izuchukwu (knee), Luke Marshall (knee), Jack McGrath (hip), Iain Henderson (thumb), Kieran Treadwell (shoulder), John Cooney (hamstring) and Rob Baloucoune (groin).