Ireland captain Rory Best looks set to miss Ulster’s opening two European Champions Cup games next month after suffering a hamstring injury.
Best, who skippered the British and Irish Lions’ midweek team in New Zealand this summer, was hurt during training last Thursday.
Ulster ended speculation last night and have now confirmed that the 35-year-old hooker will be sidelined.
“Following a scan, it has been confirmed that Rory Best has a hamstring tear and will be out of action for approximately four to six weeks,” Ulster said in a statement.
Ulster launch their Champions Cup campaign against Wasps in Belfast on October 13, then travel to French club La Rochelle nine days later.
Ireland’s opening Test of their autumn series is against South Africa on November 11, followed by appointments with Fiji and Argentina.
Meanwhile, Leinster have confirmed that prop forward Cian Healy was forced off the team flight to Cape Town following a “misunderstanding” about his laptop.
A statement released by the province last night said the incident arose owing to a misunderstanding around the use of a laptop during the approach to take off.
“Cian disembarked the plane and took the next available flight to Cape Town with the same airline,” they explained.
Leinster will face the Cheetahs in a PRO14 game in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Irish province beat Southern Kings 31-10 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.