With still much debate being aired over Andrew Trimble's omission for Joe Schmidt's final World Cup squad, Ulster's Guinness PRO12 opener against the Ospreys on Friday night at least brought some required distraction from the issue.
Trimble is on course to play – a week after he scored in the friendly defeat at Edinburgh – and make his first competitive outing in an Ulster shirt since last October's season-ending toe injury struck him down.
He can expect quite a welcome when he trots out at the Kingspan Stadium to make up one part of a pretty decent back three which should be completed by Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik against an Ospreys side missing a dozen front-liners to World Cup commitments.
"Trimby's a true pro," Ulster head coach Neil Doak said yesterday.
“I thought he did pretty well for his 35 minutes coming straight back into international rugby [against Wales] and I suppose 80 minutes last week [in Edinburgh was pleasing, but maybe that lack of rugby was the deciding factor [for Ireland]. “He’s got a couple of games now to get more time under his belt.”
Elsewhere, though, the outlook has a slightly more worrying look to it as even though Doak’s squad still looks robust enough to manage without the seven called up by Schmidt, there appears to be a problem at out-half where the coach appears to have
and potentially his back-up Sam Windsor to injury.
“It’s highly unlikely he’ll feature,” Doak said of Humphreys who was expected to cover while Paddy Jackson is at the World Cup.
Humphreys was pulled out of last week’s Edinburgh friendly with a hamstring problem while Doak remained coy about new signing Windsor’s issue while still appearing hopeful that the Australian might yet make it. If not, Ulster will be really struggling at 10, and for a placekicker, with the coach quipping that second row Dan Tuohy had actually been striking the ball well in training.
There was more hope surrounding Roger Wilson who might be in action after missing both warm-ups with what is believed to be a foot injury while, on a much more positive note, Nick Williams will return to the mix following his eight-week suspension at the back end of last season.