Ulster coach, Mark Anscombe, is concerned how his squad will cope with the number of absentees they could have going into the next week’s top-of-the-table clash with Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in the PRO12.
The league leaders maintained a seven-point gap at the top with a bonus point 26-3 win over Zebre in Belfast on Friday night.
Glasgow were 60-3 winners at Newport to set up a massive showdown between the top two next week.
However, with Ulster likely to lose 10 players to the Irish camp next week, coupled with injuries also in double figures, Anscombe believes his depleted squad will be severely tested.
“With Ireland playing on Sunday and us on Friday night, we may not get anyone back from the National Training camp and that could mean five players not getting any game time at all next week,” he said.
“It is a matter of getting through this international window and surviving, not losing too much. Glasgow certainly are on fire at the moment, they are the form team in the league.”
Although Ulster got back to winning ways against the Italian strugglers last night following the previous week’s defeat to Ospreys, the try bonus point merely covered up the cracks of a side struggling to gain momentum.
No 8 Robbie Diack went over in either half for a brace of tries, while either side of those, Rob Herring and Ricky Andrew scored their first tries in an Ulster shirt. Ruan Pienaar slotted over three of the four conversions.
“I think the only thing that was better this week was the result. We got a bonus point try, but I think our play was poor. It was horrible at times,” Anscombe added.
“We turned the ball over 20 times in the game and it is a trend we do regularly and I just think we are not getting any better at it and that is a concern.
“It is not a lack of commitment. That was good out there. The guys trained well, but it is just option taking and decision making under pressure which let us down too often.”
Ulster will assess the injuries to Luke Marshall (dead legs) and Chris Henry (knee), before they go to training camp today, while skipper Johann Muller will also be assessed over the weekend after picking up a groin strain.