Ulster welcome back familiar faces for Pro14 visit to Ospreys
Long-term absentees Louis Ludik and Michael Lowry in frame for selection
Marty Moore is fit again for Ulster after missing out on last month’s previous game, the Champions Cup win over Bath. Photograph: Matthew Bunn/Inpho
Ulster look poised to put out a strong selection for Saturday’s return to Pro14 action when they travel to the struggling Ospreys.
Marty Moore is fit again after missing out on last month’s previous game, the Champions Cup win over Bath which secured a second successive quarter-final for the province, while more long-term absentees Louis Ludik and Michael Lowry are also in the frame for selection.
Dan McFarland is also able to deploy the four players who were released back from Ireland camp this week which means that Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, Stuart McCloskey and Billy Burns should all be involved and therefore see action at the Liberty Stadium.
“They’ve been away training hard with Ireland,” McFarland said of the four returnees. “They haven’t got game minutes so some those guys could do with games. We’ll probably involve them this week at some level.”
Though Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, John Cooney, Jacob Stockdale and Will Addison have all been retained this week by Andy Farrell, Ulster look more than robust enough to cope without them and certainly, in terms of back-three players, have an abundance to choose from in Robert Baloucoune, Craig Gilroy and Matt Faddes as well as Ludik and Lowry.
They do, though, remain a little light on fit locks as Sam Carter is thought more likely to return next week from a shoulder dislocation suffered back in November.
The northern province now face a three-game block in their bid to solidify second spot in Conference A with, after Saturday’s game at distant bottom side Ospreys, a crunch-looking encounter against their current nearest rivals the Ruan Pienaar-inspired Cheetahs next week, who are five points behind, before a potentially tricky trip to Treviso.
Though Ulster have won eight of their last 10 games in all competitions and now head to crisis-rocked Ospreys who have been victorious in just one match this season, McFarland insisted that his charges will still face a stern test both against a determined home team and the predicted grim weather for Swansea.
“Leinster are a good chunk ahead of us (11 points) and if we want to chase them down we need them to slip up which doesn’t look likely at the moment.
“So we’re in a position where we’ve got to keep winning and going to the Ospreys, this week, I’m sure they will have pulled together as a group [after the break].
“We’re facing terrible [weather] conditions and it’s going to be a good test for us. Last year, at this time, we went to the Ospreys and we won 8-0 and it was a hard, hard grind and I don’t expect anything less this time,” McFarland maintained.
Still, Ulster should get the job done.