Anscombe hopes injuries won't hobble Ulster
RUGBY:Atop pool four and the best placed of the Irish sides, Ulster have nonetheless been hit by an untimely spate of injuries. Not alone has Luke Marshall joined captain Johann Muller, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris on the sidelines, but although he was named in their provisional 27-man squad yesterday for Friday’s visit of Glasgow to Ravenhill, the likelihood is that Dan Tuohy will miss this match and quite possibly their final pool game in Castes as well.
Tuohy suffered a recurrence of the calf injury he initially sustained in the defeat to Northampton during last Friday’s bonus-point win at home to the Scarlets, and his loss compounds the absence of Muller given he had been calling the lineouts in the South African’s absence.
Mark Anscombe yesterday admitted that the likeliest combination is Lewis Stevenson and impressive rookie Iain Henderson, but given this it could be that Robbie Diack might come into the backrow equation.
“To lose two players of that calibre, our two starting locks of last year and both of whom have played international rugby, would be a concern but the fact is you’ve got to have faith in the players who replace them,” maintained a typically positive Anscombe yesterday. “And we’ve got to do that and get on with our job on Friday night.”
Furthermore, Marshall will have to undergo surgery on a fractured finger he sustained against the Scarlets, and as he will be sidelined for four to six weeks this also limits Declan Kidney’s options at inside centre for at least the initial stages of the Six Nations to Gordon D’Arcy and Paddy Wallace.
Fullback Adam D’Arcy fractured his ankle and will see a specialist later in the week when an approximate timeframe for a return to action will be confirmed. This adds to concerns about Jared Payne, who missed the game against the Welsh outfit when his troublesome groin worsened, although Ulster will be hopeful their outstanding Kiwi fullback can somehow negotiate the next two games before resting up during the Six Nations window.
Anscombe takes encouragement from the way his squad have adapted to being without Ferris for much of their campaign and Muller for almost half their matches to date, adding: “One person’s misfortune is another man’s gain and in a lot of cases in different positions, guys have taken those chances.”
That they have is credit to the belief and environment which Anscombe and his coaching staff have generated.