While the main focus of attention is on Ulster’s return to the Heineken Cup this weekend, for Irish international centre, Paddy Wallace, the British and Irish Cup should mark a welcome return to playing after a long lay-off through injury.
The 34-year-old has not played since February 22 when he was forced to retire in the 49th minute of Ulster 22-14 loss in Glasgow in the RaboDirect PRO12.
He played at outhalf on that occasion and the knee injury he sustained proved serious when he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
During his lay-off, Wallace signed a one-year extension to his contract, possibly seeing him out to retirment at the end of the current season.
Having now gone through a significant period of rehabilitation and back running on the pitch, Ulster’s current most capped player (188) is set to return to playing.
Ulster Rugby confirmed on Monday night he was available for selection this weekend.
However, it was unlikely he would be involved against Benetton Treviso in the Pool Five match at Ravenhill.
The likely scenario would see Ulster travel to Ayr with the Ravens for a Pool Six game in the British & Irish Cup.
The Ravens must defeat the Scottish side if they are to maintain their hopes of making the knockout stages.
A good run-out for Wallace could be the perfect spring road to see him return to the senior squad a week later with the return fixture in Treviso.
While Wallace will be involved this weekend, Jared Payne remained on a race against the clock to be fit for the European tie at Ravenhill on Saturday evening.
Payne has been struggling with a groin strain and while he was expected to play from the bench in the PRO12 19-11 win over Zebre last Saturday, he did not make the plane.
One player set to return to the Ulster team is skipper, Johann Muller.
It was expected to be a race against the clock for Muller after he suffered a calf injury in the PRO12 win over Cardiff at the end of October, although his recovery has gone to schedule.
British Lions winger, Tommy Bowe, is also expected to return to the side this weekend after being rested having played in all three of Ireland’s November Guinness International Test matches against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.