Ulster in a healthy state ahead of Euro tie as Best and Pienaar set to return

Leicester's Toby Flood (c) is stopped by Ulster's Rory Best (left) and  Nick Williams
Leicester's Toby Flood (c) is stopped by Ulster's Rory Best (left) and Nick Williams

Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar are set to lead the Ulster front and back lines on Saturday as they return from injury for the eagerly anticipated Heineken Cup quarter-final clash at Ravenhill on Saturday evening.

It was always expected that British Lion hooker, Rory Best would return having missed the last two games having started in all of Ireland’s Six Nations Championship matches.

South African Ruan Pienaar injured a shoulder almost three weeks ago during the second half of the PRO12 victory against Newport Gwent Dragons and missed the last two games against Scarlets and Edinburgh.

Although Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe, was a little guarded on the progress of Pienaar he told the News Letter that things were positive.

“He trained on Monday and again today so we will see how he is tomorrow,” said Anscombe.

“We are certainly hopeful he will be involved this weekend.”

By all accounts Ulster are in a much healthier state than they were a year ago going into their Heineken Cup quarter-final tie at Twickenham against Saracens.

The team were unable to train on the Monday due to the number of players unavailable and on Tuesday the management were still unsure who would be available.

Anscombe said: “We had quite a few players who were just returning from injury and Tommy Bowe came off the bench in the game for his first taste of action in some time.

“Certainly we have almost a full hand to deal from and it does give us some choices in certain places.”

Stephen Ferris is also expected to be involved having come through over 100 minutes of game time in the past three weeks after he was out for 16 months through injury.

He played two first halves in Ulster’s last two pool games, but it is unclear how the management will utilise him this weekend.

Anscombe said: “We did not give Stephen the game time we did over the past few weeks not to look at including him in the game against Saracens.”

Ulster captain, Johann Muller, was one of the players returning from injury last season and he joked yesterday as he recalled the pain he was in just climbing up the stairs of the team bus as they left for the airport.

“It is great to have a fit and healthy squad at the minute.

“Last year we were beaten by the better team on the day.

“This year we want to make sure we are the better team on the day and we will have to be at our best ever if we are to do that.

“We finished top of the log in qualifying, but we do not want to end up like every other team in the past who did that and slip up at this stage.”