International hooker Rory Best could make a return to playing on Sunday with Ulster in the European Champions Cup pool game against La Rochelle.
The Ulster captain has been recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in training on September 14 and has not yet made his seasonal bow.
He had been expected to be out for up to six weeks, but in spite of a recent setback, Ireland's most capped hooker could be set for a return this weekend in France.
If Best passed a fitness test on Friday morning it was expected he would be named on the bench for Sunday afternoon's game against the French Top 14 side.
It is a massive boost for Ulster, who will take on Leinster on Saturday, October 28 at Kingspan Stadium in the Guinness PRO14.
But the return of Best will also be good news for Ireland boss Joe Schmdit as he will have his captain available for the forthcoming November Guinness Test series.
Ireland are to play South African (November 11), Fiji (November 18) and Argentina (November 25).
If Best was to play for Ulster this weekend he would be poised to make his 200th appearance in Belfast against Leinster, becoming the fourth Ulster player to do so.
The Ulster team is due to be announced at noon - with Andrew Trimble poised to become Ulster's most capped player ever with 222, if he starts on one of the wings.