Ulster to turn to rising star Allen to help tame the Tigers in hour of need

Ulster's Michael Allen
Ulster's Michael Allen

With Irish international wingers, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy both unlikely to be available for Saturday’s crunch Pool Five Heineken Cup shoot-out at Welford Road, young winger Michael Allen looks set to be handed his second start in Europe.

The ??-year-old has been one of the most exciting prospects to develop through from last season and would certainly not be out of place going across to face defending Aviva Premiership champions, Leicester Tigers.

It was confirmed by Ulster Rugby on Monday evening that Gilroy had suffered a broken nose during the 27-16 win over Montpellier at Ravenhill last Friday night.

A statement added that he has also suffered from concussion.

While by all accounts Gilroy is almost unlikely to be fit for Friday’s game, the young Irish winger was set to see a specialist last night and, in conjunction with the return to protocols to playing after concussion, he COULD still go to Welford Road this weekend.

There had been much speculation also that British Lion winger, Bowe, could make a return from a groin injury to be fit for the game.

However, Ulster Rugby’s statement yesterday backed up head coach, Mark Anscombe, thoughts on Friday night that it was unlikely.

The statement said: “Tommy Bowe continues to recover well from the injury that he sustained playing for Ireland in November, however, it is not expected that he will be available for selection for Saturday’s match.”

International prop, Declan Fitzpatrick, was another doubt after he also suffered concussion on Friday night after coming on as a replacement for John Afoa.

He too is being managed in the return-to-play programme.

Saturday evening’s game at a sold-out Welford Road between two former champions and heavyweights in Europe is billed as the game of the final round of the tournament, in spite of the fact that 16 other teams are still in the mix for the last eight shake up.

Ulster and Leicester are already assured of a place in the last eight, but the Irish Province can secure the number one seeds position and a guaranteed home draw back at Ravenhill on the first weekend of April when the new capacity of 18,000 will be available.

Leicester, who are two points behind Ulster, need to win to also press for a home draw in the last eight.

Anscombe said: “Our target at the start of the season was to get a home quarter-final.

“Leicester are as good as they come, but if you want to win the Heineken Cup you have to beat the best teams in the competition.

“They do not come much bigger than Leicester at home. But it is exactly the sort of challenge the players want.”