RUGBY: Ulster remain without key players for visit of champions Scarlets

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee (right) and Charles Piutau
Ulster's Marcell Coetzee (right) and Charles Piutau

Ulster will be without international stars Charles Piutau and Marcell Coetzee due to injury for their crunch meeting with champions Scarlets in Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 game.

British Lions summer tourists Iain Henderson, Jared Payne and Ulster skipper Rory Best are still unavailable due to being on player welfare management programmes.

The trio could return to playing next week or the week after confirmed backs coach Dwayne Peel.

He also said Coetzee (knee) and Piutau (hamstring) would be expected to return “soon.”

Backrow forward Piutau, who has just played five games for Ulster since his arrival to the Province at the start of last season.

He made a thunderous impression in the opening game of the season against Cheetahs but carried a knock from that and missed last week’s away win in Treviso.

His ball carrying direct approach was sorely missed and fellow South African, Jean Deysel, appeared to miss his backrow partner in Italy.

Piutau and Coetzee are likely to return against the Dragons in Belfast next weekend.

Ulster reported no fresh injuries from the Treviso trip while Craig Gilroy (lower), Ross Kane (elbow) and summer signing Schalk van der Merwe (shoulder) remain on the injured list.

Callum Patterson sustained a knee injury while playing for Ballymena in the SONI Ulster Premiership on Saturday and his fitness continues to be assessd for this weekend.

While Ulster are without their Lions trio, Scarlets will have Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens making their first appearances of the new term in Belfast..

Coach Wayne Pivac said the duo are training fully after breaks following the Lions’ tour of New Zealand.

“They are back with a view to being involved on Friday,” he said.

“There was a bit of contact this (Tuesday) morning and there’s more training to do and we’ve just got to see how those guys scrub up.

“But our intention is to use them in the 23 in some shape or form,” added the New Zealander.