Wednesday 19 December 2018

Warwick and O'Connor blow for Ulster

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Ulster have been dealt a double injury blow ahead of Friday night's crucial Champions Cup clash with Scarlets in Llanelli (KO 7.45pm).

Forwards Alan O'Connor and Andy Warwick have both been ruled out of the game with ankle and MCL trouble respectively.

The fact that this is a European week means their absences pose an additional problem for head coach Dan McFarland.

Ireland lock Iain Henderson is set to come into contention for his first game since the autumn internationals, presumably in a straight swap for the now-stricken O'Connor.

However, on-loan lock Ian Nagle, who has performed well since making the move north from Leinster, is not at present registered in the Champions Cup squad and there isn't another specialised second-row in the panel to fill the bench spot on Friday.

It's a similar story up front. Warwick, in tandem with Academy man Eric O'Sullivan, has started or benched in every game Ulster have played this season both in the Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14. Rodney Ah You has joined Newcastle Falcons since Ulster last played in Europe, while rarely-seen import Schalk van der Merwe was yesterday released from his contract.

Kyle McCall has yet to play in a senior game this season due to injury but has been turning out for his club side Ballynahinch over the past two weeks in the All-Ireland League and now seems sure to be on the bench.

Three changes to the registered panel can be made during the pool but Ulster didn't do so.

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