Ulster have been hit with a spate of injuries ahead of this weekend’s first Irish derby of the Guinness PRO14 season against Munster in Limerick.
The welcome news on Tuesday that scrumhalf, John Cooney, is set to return for the trip to Thomond Park on Saturday, will return having received nine stitches to a head wound was followed by a lengthy injury update.
Impressive backrow Marcell Coetzee is ruled out with a shoulder injury and joins Jordi Muprhy in the medical room along with fellow backrower Sean Reidy who suffered a hamstring issue during the first half of last week’s 39-all draw with Cheetahs in South Africa.
Prop Wiehahn Herbest suffered a groin strain in the same game while utility back, Henry Speight, who scored the crucial last gasp try in Bloemfontein has a knee injury.
Rob Herring suffered a toe issue last weekend and is unavailable for selection.
The backline duo withdrawn at the eleventh hour for last Friday’s game, Craig Gilroy and Will Addison are continuing to be assessed this week and could yet be involved.
No time frame for a return was given for any of the fresh injuries, but with the European Champions Cup just over two weeks away, head coach Dan McFarland will be looking for a healthier outlook.
The backrow injuries also leave Ulster stretched in that department, which is far from ideal when facing the wrath of Munster who are looking to bounce back from a loss to Cardiff last weekend.
It is expected that British Lion, Iain Henderson will return to the starting line-up this weekend, but fellow Irish internationals Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale are likely to make their season bows against Connacht at Kingspan on Friday, October 5.
Looking ahead to the Munster game, assistant coach, Dwayne Peel, said: “Any time you go down there, it’s a tough place to go but it’s a great place to go as well.
“A good place to go and play rugby and a good test for us.
They’ll obviously be smarting from the weekend you know. They’ve been going quite well but they’ll be hurting from that Cardiff game.
“There’s no easy time to go there I don’t think. ~We realise it’s a big challenge for us to do go down there and a big test but we’re looking forward to it.
“The confidence in the group is good so it’s a good time to go there,” he added.
Ulster are the only team in the PRO14 to remain unbeaten after three wins and a draw, while Munster have suffered two defeats from their four outings.