Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named an extended 27-man squad for the province’s last home match of the Heineken Cup pool stages against Edinburgh on Friday (kick-off 8pm).
With the thaw setting in and the snow now gone from the Ravenhill pitch, it is full steam ahead for Friday’s Pool 4 meeting between Ulster and Edinburgh at the Belfast venue.
Ulster Rugby have put their plans to erect a marquee on the pitch and use blow heaters to improve pitch conditions on hold, due to the improving weather.
Paddy Wallace (ankle) and Willie Faloon (shoulder), the province’s main injury doubts, have been included in the extended panel to face the Scottish side.
Irish international Wallace is set to feature this weekend, with coach Brian McLaughlin saying: “Paddy had a rest at the weekend and is training well and doing well, so he should be fine for Friday’s match.”
From the squad initially named for last weekend’s postponed Magners League game against the Ospreys, former Ireland Under-20 centre Jonny Shiels is the only omission.
Heading into what is being billed as Ulster’s most important European encounter since 1999, McLaughlin commented: “This is a massive game; we are all itching to get back playing after the postponement of the Ospreys fixture.
“Rugby is the players’ job, they work hard all week with a view to getting out there and playing on a Friday night, so they’re disappointed when that doesn’t happen.
“That being the case, Friday night cannot come quickly enough for them. A full house to watch Ulster’s most important match in years would be a tremendous boost.
“The supporters’ role in our victory over Munster in our last home game was massive. They helped us to keep going in the final 20 minutes when we were under huge pressure.
“They drove us home and all of us – the players’ and the coaching staff – really appreciated that.”
He added: “We know Edinburgh and they know us, so there will be no room for error. We have to dominate the play if we are going to win.
“We have got some great training sessions in at the Sports Institute in Jordanstown and Ashfield Boys’ School this week, and the players are all fully focused on Friday’s game. They are all ready to get up and add it.”
The Ulster team and replacement will be announced on Thursday afternoon.
ULSTER Squad (v Edinburgh) – Backs (12): Clinton Schifcofske, Timoci Nagusa, Simon Danielli, Andrew Trimble, Ian Whitten, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss, Jamie Smith, Niall O’Connor, Cillian Willis.
Forwards (15): Bryan Young, Tom Court, Andy Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, BJ Botha, Declan Fitzpatrick, Ed O’Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell, Neil McComb, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Dan Tuohy, Willie Faloon, Thomas Anderson, David Pollock.