Dan McFarland embracing Ulster injury challenge before United Rugby Championship road run

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​Ulster are facing an injury crisis in the pack ahead of the first inter-pro of the season when Dan McFarland’s side travel to Galway on Saturday night.

Both Ulster and Connacht have started the United Rugby Championship with two wins and won’t have any of their Ireland World Cup players available.

Ulster are down to the bare bones at tight head prop after it was revealed that Tom O’Toole - the ‘man-of-the-match’ winner last weekend in victory over the Bulls – needs surgery on a groin injury that will see him sidelined for at least four weeks.

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Marty Moore, who hasn’t played since New Year’s Day, is not ready to come back yet.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland talks to the media ahead of facing Connacht this weekend in the United Rugby Championship. (Photo by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press).Ulster head coach Dan McFarland talks to the media ahead of facing Connacht this weekend in the United Rugby Championship. (Photo by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press).
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland talks to the media ahead of facing Connacht this weekend in the United Rugby Championship. (Photo by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press).

Loose forwards Cormac Izuchukwu and Dave Ewers sustained head injuries against the Bulls and will follow return-to-play protocols, while lock Kieran Treadwell is ruled out with a hip injury plus Rob Herring and Iain Henderson are still on their break after the World Cup.

“The tight head side we only have James French and Greg (McGrath) that are fit,” said McFarland. “Marty will not be too far away, he still has a few things to tick off but it will not be in the next couple of weeks.

“We have got a few niggles at the minute, Dave Ewers came off with a concussion, Izzy (Izuchukwu) came off with a concussion and ‘Tredders’ (Treadwell) is carrying his hip injury...Greg Jones, so there are a few niggles in there but it is what it is, the tight head side we only have James French and Greg (McGrath).

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“These things are swings and roundabouts, we’ll have 23 hungry guys who will go down to Galway and we’ll enjoy that challenge.”

McFarland is hoping to see double World Cup-winning South African prop Steven Kitshoff for the Glasgow game on the last weekend of November.

“Steven will take the same break as the Irish guys, three weeks,” said McFarland. “Steven played the URC final, went straight into South Africa’s camp, played all the Rugby Championship games as Ox Nche got injured.

“He played all the warm-up games and he played all the World Cup games, I want him to get a good break so when he comes to Ulster he feels fresh, he feels looked after and he hits the ground running.”

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McFarland is looking forward to seeing the Springbok in the white shirt after his exploits in France.

“He just confirmed he is one of the top two or three loose heads in the world, pushing hard to be the best in the world,” said McFarland. “As I get to know Steven we’ll work closely together as I do with all the other props and to evolve how he is doing things, so it works for the best of what we want out of him.”

Ulster have won on their last two visits to the Sportsground.

“We have had some good wins down there,” said McFarland. “There was one maybe three years ago at Christmas I thought was a particularly good one when they had a strong team and we had a few guys missing that day.

“It will be the same this week, they will have a strong team and we’ll have a few missing, so it will be a challenge...we are looking forward to it.”

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