Ulster centre Angus Curtis will face a lengthy spell on the sideline after it was confirmed he suffered an ACL injury in the PRO14 loss to Leinster on Friday night.
The 21-year-old writhed in pain on the pitch after his left leg buckled under his body in a challenge and he was stretchered off and taken to hospital.
Yesterday, head coach Dan McFarland confirmed the disappointing news for the Zimbabwean-born player.
“He has an ACL injury so will need surgery, out long term,” said McFarland, who also confirmed that Rob Lyttle suffered an AC joint injury and was continuing to be assessed.
Ulster went on to lose a thrilling match 54-42 against the current Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster.
However, they are now four points adrift of their Provincial rivals at the top of Conference A and the defeated ended a five-match winning sequence in all competitions.
Ulster face Connacht in Belfast on Friday night as the Irish derbies continue and only a win will satisfy McFarland and the home support.
Will Addison is free to play after serving a four week ban following an upheld citing compaint in the European Champions Cup tie against Clermont.
McFarland said: “He’s available for selection if we decide to pick him, he’s obviously in Ireland camp this week so we will have to see if we select him or not.”
Ulster rotated their squad last weekend, with 14 changes from the team which had won at Harlequins the previous weekend in the European Cup.
“Last week, a few guys got an opportunity and this week a few different guys more will get an opportunity so there will be changes,” said McFarland.
Outhalf Billy Burns ish available having completed return to play protocols following concussion and influential number eight Marcell Coetzee is also available having been rested last week.