Ulster will know at lunchtime today whether or not Friday night’s Magners League match with Ospreys is on.
With the guests scheduled to bring a sizeable number of supporters to Belfast and a fully-equipped travelling television crew poised to make the trip, to say nothing of 22 players and aides to be transported and accommodated, a decision has to be taken early on.
Unlike last weekend when the fact that pitch had been covered managed to prevent the sell-out match against Munster being postponed, Ravenhill has since lain open to the elements. As a result, the top layer is solidly frozen to quite a depth.
Long before the full-time whistle last Saturday evening, frost had worked its way into the pitch. In the circumstances, there was little point in applying covers to an already-frozen surface. And with the temperature, in the interim, struggling to get much above freezing, the chances of Friday night’s match been given the go-ahead are slim.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin, whose car skidded in snow yesterday morning as he made his way to training at Ashfield Boys’ School, said the team’s preparations were continuing in the hope, if not the conviction, that the match would be staged.
He said: “The weather is something we have no control over.
“So we’ve got to focus as if the match is on in the belief that we’re playing on Friday night. Our job is to get our heads round that and to make sure we’re in the right place for a game we’re down to play.
“All the external factors are beyond us; we just deal with the things we’re able to control. That’s all we can do.”
Backs Andrew Trimble and young Jamie Smith confirmed that they are continuing to train in the hope the fixture goes ahead.
Trimble, whose man of the match performance against Munster will not have done his international prospects any harm at all, said: “We’re just trying to keep our heads down and approaching it in the hope that it will be played.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even sure the Munster match would be played. The pitch on the far side was pretty dangerous, especially towards the end of the game.
“Realistically, if things get any worse, I think there’s every chance that Friday night’s match will be called off. At the minute though, we’re looking forward to playing.”
Smith, who has started in each of the past three senior outings and clearly would prefer to keep that momentum going, said: “As players we try not to think about the game being off. It’s a bit of a negative thing that it might not be on. It’s up to us just to focus, try to concentrate on the match ahead and not to let the possibility of a postponement distract us.”
An announcement is expected at noon.
Meanwhile several matches scheduled for today/tonight, are in serious doubt. They are:
Magners Junior League 2 (7.30pm): Belfast Harlequins III v Lisburn II
Magners Minor League South (7.30pm): Portadown V v Banbridge V
Schools’ 2nd XV Cup (2.30pm): Coleraine AI v Friends School; Ballyclare HS v RS Armagh
Schools Friendlies (3pm): Coleraine AI v RS Dungannon; Portadown College v Portora RS; Belfast Royal Academy v Omagh Academy.
Earlier this week Portora’s meeting with the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Under 18s, scheduled to have been played at the hosts’ Derrygonnelly Road grounds, was called off.