An injury update from Ulster Rugby has confirmed that centre Luke Marshall underwent surgery last Friday to repair ligament damage in his thumb (right hand). The surgery was successful and he is likely to return to action in approximately six weeks.
Second row Dan Tuohy suffered concussion during the 16-10 GUINNESS PRO12 loss to Edinburgh on Friday night and will follow the return to play protocols.
Back rower Robbie Diack suffered a muscle tear in his thigh. He is continuing to rehab but is unlikely to be available for selection this week.
Recently-signed out-half Sam Windsor has returned to full training and is available for selection this week. Ireland centre Stuart Olding is also progressing well with his rehab. He is scheduled for a review with his surgeon next week, when a better prognosis will be available.
Meanwhile, you could forgive Peter Nelson for thinking ‘job done’. With Paddy Jackson away at the Rugby World Cup and with injuries to Ian Humphreys and Windsor, Neil Doak called on the utility back to fill the number 10 jersey in what was something of a selection emergency.
Despite having never played at out-half at senior level, the Dungannon man, who only turned 23 a fortnight ago, has excelled in the specialist position. Now, with Jackson, Humphreys and Windsor all back in contention, Nelson does not want to step back. Instead, he is keen to develop further and to keep himself in the selection frame at out-half.
“I have really enjoyed the four games that I have started at ten,” he admitted. “What matters to me is that ‘Doaky’ is happy. If he is satisfied with my performances, then I am too and I would like to continue playing there.
“I am learning all the time. Having not played at ten at this level before you obviously have to learn very quickly. You need to know your systems inside out – not just what you need to be doing but what everyone else should be doing. It has been a challenge, but I have definitely learnt a lot and I am continuing to learn.”
Ulster’s home form compared to their their away results could not be more different at present. Bonus point home wins over the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso contrast with defeats on the road to the Scarlets and Edinburgh. Nelson says that it is difficult to explain why the performances are so different.
“We feel that we are training well throughout the week. Going into the weekend we though that we were in a good place. At home we are doing really well but it isn’t happening when we are on the road and that is frustrating.
“We are giving away a lot of penalties in the opposition’s 22 and we are not taking the chances that we create. We haven’t held onto the ball, we haven’t been increasing our intensity. That is frustrating because we know that if we can ramp that intensity up, then we can get points.
“It’s not good enough for us to win at home and then not go and do the same away. We are not going to be competing for silverware at the end of the season if we don’t improve our away form. We really need to focus on that. We have to put in performances away from home.”
With Ulster in fifth position in the PRO12 table and five points behind provincial rivals Connacht, the players know that they need a win against Cardiff Blues on Friday night.
Nelson added: “I think we need to focus on ourselves this week. We are back at Kingspan Stadium and we need a huge performance.
“We have to get back on track and get a big win. We will look at Cardiff, look at their plays and do our analysis, but definitely – the focus is on us this week.”