Ireland winger Craig Gilroy will be fit for Ulster's top-of-the-table clash with second-placed Scarlets at Ravenhill tomorrow night.
Gilroy was considered doubtful after picking up a knee injury during Ulster's first Pro12 defeat of the season at Thomond Park last week. However, after a scan earlier this week showed no serious damage, Gilroy was back on the training paddock ready for what stand-in captain Chris Henry says is a possible leg-up ahead of their two remaining European Cup clashes at the end of the month.
"It couldn't be any better at the start of the new year, first against second," said Henry, who will be leading an Ulster side with most of its big guns returning following that reverse against Munster, with possibly John Afoa again rested and Adam Macklin getting another run in the No 3 jersey.
"I suppose it will be a good time to meet them after their big defeat against the Ospreys and they will be hurting. They have had a bit of a dip the way we had ours in Italy. They will be desperate to get the points and obviously we will be desperate to keep or extend the nine-point lead at the top.
"The set-piece is going to be massive, as is the breakdown. The Scarlets have a great backline and they like to throw the ball around and play expansive rugby. But if we do a good job at the breakdown and slow down their ball, that will go a long way in deciding the game.
"We also have to hold onto the ball a little longer. We didn't do that against Munster, so whenever we have it we must keep it and give our backline good, quick ball. They are one of the best three-quarter lines in Europe at present and have scored some great tries, so it is up to us to provide the platform.
"We have to try and get a bit of momentum. We are back at Ravenhill, the crowd will be out in force, and there has been a lot of talk of where we are at present, and the players are loving it. But we need to win the game at home and that will lead us – with a positive frame of mind – into Europe. But first things first," said Henry, who finds getting into the team harder and harder.
"Last week, even in defeat, we had more players putting their hands up wanting to be in the squad, so I just hope we get it together and produce a good performance. The two games following – against Glasgow and Castres in Europe – are also massive and there will be chances for people to claim a place."