Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons: Ulster to welcome back big guns
Ulster's determination to take their November form into the final month of 2010 is reflected in the strength of the 27-man squad named for Friday night's Magners League clash with Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill (7.05pm).
International flanker Stephen Ferris and wing Andrew Trimble, both of whom started in Ireland’s 29-9 victory against Argentina on Sunday, are in the panel, as is prop Tom Court who entered the Dublin fray off the bench.
They have rejoined fellow-international Paddy Wallace who played for Ulster in Treviso on Friday night after being released from the Irish camp.
That means still-injured captain, hooker Rory Best, is now the only international absentee.
As well as that returning Irish contingent, scrum-half Ruan Pienaar is back in the Ulster fold having returned from a month of autumnal Test duty with South Africa.
And, for the first time since September 11 when he suffered a calf injury while on Ulster duty against Aironi in Italy, prop Declan Fitzpatrick is included among the 14 forwards.
“Hopefully he’ll get some club time this week,” said coach Brian McLaughlin who went on to admit that although the availability of those players will mean difficult decisions ahead of being able to name his team and replacements tomorrow, that selection headache is one he welcomes.
“It goes with the territory so while it’s never easy having to leave anyone out, particularly after those two very good wins in Cardiff and Treviso, I think I’d have far more to worry about if I didn’t have options,” he said.
McLaughlin described Chris Henry as “fine” after the knock which saw him substituted last Friday night at Stadio Monigo. Following tests to ensure he did not suffer concussion, Henry has been cleared to play.
With Best (cheekbone) and Johann Muller (neck) missing, the fair-haired back row forward is odds-on to captain Friday night’s team, almost certainly from No 8.
That is because while Robbie Diack — who normally plays in the middle of the back row — has recovered from the ankle sprain he picked up against Cardiff 11 days ago, Ulster see no need to take unnecessary risks with two crucial Heineken Cup games against Bath looming.
“With Stevie (Ferris) coming back we felt we would leave Robbie for another week just to make sure everything there is ready to go,” McLaughlin explained.
Within the restraints imposed by Ireland’s International Players Management Programme, Ulster are at liberty to deploy Ferris, Court, Wallace and Trimble as they see fit, provided the total minutes played do not exceed the IRFU’s limits.
“Everybody is available to us this weekend,” the Ulster coach confirmed.
“We mightn’t start with our best 15 but we’ll make sure that we get everybody organised and everybody involved — that’s what we’re trying to do this weekend.”
Meanwhile McLaughlin also revealed that Ulster have made their annoyance known to Celtic Rugby, who oversee the Magners League, regarding the non-award of full-back Adam D’Arcy’s second-half try against Treviso despite the fact that television evidence clearly showed it to have been a perfectly legitimate score.
That ruling, by an Italian TMO, denied Ulster a second successive four-try bonus.