Ulster’s provisional selection for Friday night’s Pool Five opener against Leicester Tigers may have to be ripped up after Irish winger, Craig Gilroy suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury.
Gilroy, who played fullback in his first start for the Province on return from a long lay-off over the summer, was forced off after just 12 minutes against Ospreys last Friday night in the Rabo PRO12 clash in Swansea.
He had suffered a bang to the ankle in the previous week’s victory over Benetton Treviso in the PRO12 when he impressed at fullback.
It is understood the clock is ticking on whether Gilroy will be available for selection for the big Euro game at a 14,000 capacity sold out Ravenhill.
Jared Payne failed to start last week’s game in Wales due to sickness and Tommy Bowe was an eleventh hour withdrawal having failed to recover from a dead leg in the Treviso match.
Both are due to be involved this week and would be almost certain starters.
Ulster had been deploying Payne at centre and an exciting partnership was developing in the midfield with Luke Marshall and outhalf Paddy Jackson.
However, if Gilroy was unavailable, Payne would be the expected player to drop back to fullback.
There is the other option of playing Bowe at fullback and retaining Payne in midfield.
Bowe has played at fullback previously with Ulster and Ireland and also Ospreys.
Andrew Trimble made his return to playing last week after a finger operation and both he and Bowe would have been the expected three-quarter starts against Leicester.
That would have meant Michael Allen, who has started in every game to date, would have been dropped to the bench.
But he could potentially get his second Heineken Cup start - he played against Castres last season - if head coach, Mark Anscombe and the management were to go down the line of keeping Payne at centre and positioning Bowe to fullback.
Meanwhile, Ruan Pienaar was expected to be named on the bench for Friday game after he returned from South African duty this week.
New Zealand prop, John Afoa continues to struggle in his comeback from injury, having been ruled out for last week’s game.
With not having had any game time to date, Afoa may also start from the bench - if at all.