Ulster take cautious approach in respect of Rory Best’s imminent return

Rory Best (right) with Head Coach Mark Anscombe
Rory Best (right) with Head Coach Mark Anscombe

While British and Irish Lions hooker, Rory Best, has been given the medical all clear to return to playing rugby seven weeks after fracturing his arm, Ulster are not in the mood to risk him by rushing him back to action.

Ulster face Montpellier on Friday night at a sold-out Ravenhill in their penultimate Pool Five Heineken Cup match.

With Paddy Wallace, Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe and Stuart Olding on the injury list, Ulster go into the game in good nick.

Last week Iain Henderson, Chris Henry and Nick Williams all returned to playing after injury and prop, John Afoa got back in the groove following a short break with his family over Christmas in New Zealand.

Ulster captain Johann Muller was due to play last Friday’s Rabo PRO12 game in Belfast against Munster having been rested for the away game at Leinster the week before.

But he suffered a calf injury in training and was ruled out.

While it is the same calf that have given him trouble during the first half of the season, there were high hopes Muller would lead the side out against Montpellier on Friday night as Ulster look to as good as secure a place in the last eight even though they could yet have a pool decider against Leicester Tigers on Saturday, January 18 at Welford Road.

“Everything is grand. It is just the scar tissue which is causing some issue,” Muller said on Tuesday.

“As far as it goes, I am good to go. I trained at the end of last week and again on Monday and today.”

However, it would be how the calf reacted to Tuesday afternoon’s training session and overnight which would yet determine if Muller will be given the all clear from the medics at Ravenhill.

Head coach, Mark Anscombe said: “He (Johann) is getting a full run out this afternoon (Tuesday) and we will see how it goes.”

And that was the same with Irish international hooker Best.

He has already been back on the pitch training in recent weeks, but Ulster were going to monitor his progress closely over the next two days before making a decision on whether he would start against the French or come off the bench.

Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe said: “We just need to see how he responds to scrums and a bit of contact work.”

Best rarely starts a game from the bench and although it may seem like the better option for him this week with what lies ahead eight days later, Anscombe would not be drawn on what his thinking was looking towards the visit of the French side.

“Rory brings a lot to the team. He is a leader and a quality player, but you know we just have to assess how he trains.

“We need to see what part of training he does and then is it best to start him or having home off the bench.

“We will make that call later on. Certainly it is a boost to have him back, just as it was to see Nick Williams, Chris Henry and Iain Henderson come back in last week.

“It is nice to have options to chose from this week,” he smiled.