Ulster have been hit with a double injury blow ahead of their opening European Champions Cup group game with Bordeaux in France on Sunday.
Louis Ludik and Darren Cave will miss the start of the Euro campaign after picking up injuries in Friday night’s Guinness PRO12 30-25 reverse to Connacht in Galway.
Ludik, who has been one of Ulster’s stand out players this season, suffered a fractured cheek bone and is set to be out for between four to six weeks.
Cave has been ruled out for up to four weeks with a calf tear.
It adds to a long injury list for Ulster, but the club did report some positive news on five other players ahead of the trip to France.
Charles Piutau, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding and Franco van der Merwe, are expected to return to face Bordeaux after missing the Connacht game.
Dan Tuohy played for Ulster ‘A’ against Leinster ‘A’ on Saturday and is available for selection.
Ulster remained top of the Guinness PRO12 in spite of suffering their first loss of the season against reinging champions Connacht.
However, Les Kiss’s side were well off the money at times inspite of coming from 22-8 behind to draw level at 22-22 at one stage in the second half.
But backrow Robbie Diack knows the side will bounce back as they go into Europe.
“Everyone is hurting from the loss, but it was individual errors which was the primary reason.
“It frustrates me when the word ‘attitude’ gets thrown around because we prepared really well and I think we were there bang on with attitude, it was just individual mistakes that let us down.
“I think when you’re playing last year’s champions and it’s an inter-pro, you know it’s going to be tough.
“To be fair to them, they played well, especially in the first half.
We came back and showed what we were capable of doing, but we needed to prolong that good spell. If you’re not at your best down here, you’re going to lose.
“We are all man enough to admit to our mistakes and put our hands up to apologise to our team mates. “
At the end of the day, it wasn’t structural mistakes, it was individual moments when we weren’t on the money. The good thing is that can change - players can work on that this week and I reckon we’ll be much better next week.”