Ulster’s McCloskey hopes for good news

Stuart McClosker in action against Wasps
Stuart McClosker in action against Wasps

Ulster remained hopeful that Irish international centre Stuart McCloskey’s hand injury would not see him sidelined for a lengthy spell.

McCloskey suffered a ‘stud rake’ type injury on his hand during the first half of the 26-15 loss to Wasps as Ulster got their new season underway in Belfast with the friendly at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, confirmed after the match that McCloskey was due to have an x-ray yesterday.

“It is difficult to tell how bad it is,” said Kiss.

“It’s quite nasty. It’s ripped down and he’s going to get it x-rayed.

“It doesn’t look nice but we’re hoping it’s nothing too sinister.

“You look at it and think there’s no chance but we’re hopeful for good news.”

McCloskey’s forced withdrawal saw fellow international Tommy Bowe make his first appearance in an Ulster shirt since suffered an injury playing with Ireland against Wales in the Six Nations.

That was a boost for Ulster and Kiss said: I’m really pleased for Tommy.

“He’s had those injuries for 18 months and he had a run at 13 and did very well.

“He made some crucial plays. It’s nice to have him back.”

Ulster were disappointed to open a new season with a home defeat to the English Premiership side.

Wasps led 14-8 at half-time with Peter Browne’s Ulster touchdown coming either side of Wasps scores by Craig Hampston and Simon McIntyre.

A Callum Patterson try helped nudge Ulster 15-14 ahead but touchdowns from Josh Bassett and Danny Cipriani saw Wasps fight back to win.

Cipriani finished with 11 points for the visitors.

Kiss said: “There’s a disappointment there, definitely.

“At home, you never like to lose no matter what’s at stake.

“There are certain components of the game where the boys would expect a lot better of themselves.

“We’ve been working on a lot of things in the pre-season, certainly getting a few new patterns in, along with the new coaches, but I don’t think we got into any flow.

“We were just behind the eight ball a little bit too often.

“They maybe got the ball a little bit easier than we got and there was 20 minutes to start that second half where they just dominated field position and put us under real pressure. That took it out of the legs.

“I expect us to deliver a bit better next week, that’s for sure.”

In terms of next week, Ulster go to play Northampton Saints in what will be their last hit-out before the revamped Guinness PRO14 gets underway a week later with the visit of new boys, South African side The Cheetahs.

Kiss will narrow things down in selection - he had named 31 players for the Wasps visit!.

“We’ll probably narrow it down a fraction more in terms of what we put out.

“We’re only two weeks away from the start of the PRO14.

“We go to Saints and we’ll have different preparation, we won’t be at Kingspan because of the Women’s World Cup.

“We’ll go away and consolidate what we’ve done. I think it’ll be a good test.

“We’ve tested a number of things today.

“The boys weren’t at the beat at the very start, although we had some good patches.

“But fair play to Wasps, they had some good stuff that they got some gold out off.”

Tickets for the first home game are available at usual outlets.