The Ulster medical team have been busy in recent weeks, but they will be up against the clock this week as they aim to ensure head coach, Mark Anscombe, has his strongest possible selection for a tough trip to Montpellier on Saturday.
Ulster and the French club share top spot in Pool Five of this season’s Heineken Cup after wins over Leicester Tigers and Benetton Treviso respectively.
Home wins are crucial in terms of getting through the groups to the knockout stages and Ulster delivered on that front against the Tigers at a sold-out Ravenhill on Friday night, 22-16.
Montpellier picked up a win on the road and will certainly be looking to be in control of the group after the first segment of fixtures in this year’s European competition.
Ulster have only won once in France - last season against Castres - and they go to Montpellier without too many expectations.
Anscombe will also be hoping he will have skipper Johann Muller on the team.
The South African lock looked in pain as he attended Friday evening’s post match press conference.
Yesterday evening, Ulster Rugby confirmed Muller has suffered a neck injury and would be assessed over the course of the week.
A spokesman said: “The medical staff are hopeful that he will be OK for Montpellier.”
Also of concern immediately after Friday’s hugely physical game with the English Premiership champions was Ulster No 8 Nick Williams and British Lions winger, Tommy Bowe.
Williams suffered a hip injury while Bowe was reported to have suffered from cramp.
Ulster Rugby said both were expected to be available.
In terms of the players who have been on the injury list previously the biggest concern has been with New Zealand World Cup winning prop, John Afoa.
He had undergone treatment on a bicep injury, but it is understood the current problem lies with a calf injury he has struggled with since last April.
Ulster coach Anscombe admitted the he expected Afoa “to be close this week.”
He added: “We just have to careful and monitor things, as we do not want him coming back sooner than he should.
“But he is getting close to making a return.”
Craig Gilroy, whose left foot has been in a protective boot during the week after suffering an ankle injury in the PRO12 win over Benetton Treviso and then suffering a recurrence in the league win away to Ospreys, is understood to be making good progress.
Both Afoa and Gilroy will continue to be assessed this week, with the Irish winger almost certainly being available for selection for the trip to France.
Meanwhile, Heineken man of the match against Tigers, Roger Wilson said Montpellier provided a huge challenge for the side.
“They are flying high at the minute and if we thought the Tigers were physical, next week is going to be a step up again.
“They have torn some of the top French teams apart this season, so it is going to be tough.”