Less than a week from starting for Ireland in their Six Nations Championship opener with Scotland, centre Luke Marshall could be playing for Ulster on Friday night in the RaboDirect PRO12 game against Ospreys at Ravenhill.
It is understood Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, has axed Marshall from his matchday squad, to be announced at lunchtime on Thursday, for Saturday’s Dublin clash with Wales.
With Ireland having a break the following weekend, there would be no reason for Marshall not to line out with his club on Friday in what is a crucial top of the table match as Ulster resume their PRO12 campaign.
It will be small consolation for Marshall given that his performance was solid against Scotland in the 28-6 win at the Aviva Stadium last weekend.
Veteran centre, Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy is now the starting 12 for Ireland’s massive game against Wales, already being billed as a potential Six Nations title decider, even though it is only the second week of the championship.
Iain Henderson is also to drop out of the squad this weekend, while Dan Tuohy is likely to be on the bench with Paul O’Connell returning and Schmidt likely to stick with Devin Toner as the other starting lock.
Ulster will in one hand be disappointed that Marshall has not retained his place in the Irish panel, head coach, Mark Anscombe, yesterday hailing the fact a third of the team and a third of the squad were from the club last week.
However, Anscombe also revealed they were stretched in the ‘12’ position with several injuries to contend with.
However, it is likely that Marshall and Henderson will be named on the Ulster bench returning to the side late in the week with Jared Payne potentially starting at 12 beside Darren Cave for Ulster.