Anscombe unfazed at prospect of playing on Saracens' artificial pitch


Ulster may have to play their Heineken Cup quarter-final in late April on an artificial pitch as it emerged Saracens are pushing to play the tie at their new Allianz Park ground.

The London club are in talks with Barnet Council in the hope they will grant them permission to temporarily extend the ground’s capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 to meet ERC regulations regarding ties in the last eight. If Saracens get approval the final say on where the game will be played comes down to tournament organisers ERC who will have made their decision by the beginning of next month. Alternative venues are believed to include Twickenham and Wembley.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe reacted with indifference to the prospect of his side having to play its first game on a plastic surface. “I don’t care really,” the coach said. “As long as it’s a good ground and the conditions are right.”

Anscombe’s side needed to take a bonus-point win in Castres to earn a home quarter-final tie. Instead, they shaded matters 9-8 for what was nevertheless their first competitive win on French soil. “That was a goal we had set ourselves,” he said. “But we got through and we won our pool so there are more positives than negatives. Maybe we’ll leave a home quarter as a first for next year. It was a tough pool and we came out of it with five wins.”

Anscombe revealed Tommy Bowe may not even make the European quarter-final due to be played April 5th-7th. Bowe suffered knee ligament damage in December’s European defeat to Northampton.

Injury doubts

There are doubts over Roger Wilson who left the action early at Castres after aggravating the hamstring injury which had badly delayed his return this season while Jared Payne is unlikely to be in action again until March due to a groin problem. Nick Williams is six weeks away from a possible return after damaging his medial ligament though there is better news regarding skipper Johann Muller, Luke Marshall and Dan Tuohy who should all be involved in Ulster’s next game, against the Ospreys, at Ravenhill on February 8th.

Stephen Ferris is also expected to be back next month after ankle surgery.

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