Connacht await fitness report on key players ahead of Leinster tie

Ulster set to announce three-month contract for Stephen Ferris

Connacht head coach Pat Lam: has some players returning from injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Connacht head coach Pat Lam: has some players returning from injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 


Connacht coach Pat Lam is hopeful that fullback Gavin Duffy, who last weekend left the field during the second half at Thomond Park with a shoulder injury, will recover in time for Saturday’s derby against Leinster.

Duffy is one of several players who picked up knocks against Munster, with scrumhalf Frank Murphy suffering a concussion. The Cork man has been ruled out of action for this week’s game.

Medical staff will also continue to monitor the recovery of 21-year-old flanker Jake Heenan, who has a shoulder injury. Lam, however, also has some key players returning from sick bay with forwards Michael Swift, Sean Henry and Ronan Loughney all training this week.

Outhalf Craig Ronaldson (hamstring) faces at least another two weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring problem while centre Dave McSharry’s ankle injury ensures he will be out of action until the end of the month.

There is some optimism in Ulster as the province is expected to announce a three-month contract for Stephen Ferris, which would give the popular Ravenhill figure a realistic chance to prove his fitness.

The highly-regarded international has been unavailable due to injury since November 2012 but has been making progress on his ankle injury since an operation in the summer. Ulster also expect that their captain, Johann Muller, Irish international backrow Chris Henry, John Afoa and Nick Williams will be all set to face Munster in a sold-out Ravenhill on Friday. It is also expected that forward Iain Henderson will return.

Henry’s return should please Irish coach Joe Schmidt as he considers the make-up of his backrow for the Six Nations Championship after the injury to Sean O’Brien’s shoulder.