Ulster's injured Lions trio not in danger of missing tour to New Zealand
Ulster's three Lions, Rory Best (shoulder), Iain Henderson (elbow) and Jared Payne (ankle) will not feature against Leinster on Saturday but director of rugby Les Kiss has eased fears surrounding their fitness ahead of next month's tour to New Zealand.
Ruan Pienaar is also set for an emotional farewell to the Ulster supporters as he has shaken off a back injury and will play at the Kingspan Stadium.
The news was not so positive for Stuart Olding who is facing up to three months out. Olding will undergo surgery tomorrow, thus ruling him out of contention for Ireland's summer tour to USA and Japan.
The latest setback will come as a huge blow to the 24-year old who has already fought his way back from two serious knee injuries.
“The further part of that report is that he will have to have surgery which will be tomorrow,” Kiss said at a Kingspan event in Dublin this morning.
“Syndesmosis and other elements in the ankle so it will be eight to 12 weeks that he'll be out unfortunately.”
Kiss admitted that Best, Henderson and Payne would likely have played against Leinster had something been riding on the game but with Ulster's hopes of making the play-offs of the Guinness PRO12 all but extinguished, the province have taken the decision to allow each player more time to recover.
“JP (Payne) is just not quite right. In actual fact, like Rory and Hendy, they are carrying knocks and couldn't train earlier in the week,” Kiss explained.
“They could play for sure, but talking as a group with the players, we have decided not to play them and let them get those knocks right.
“Hendy has been carrying his elbow for the last number of weeks. Besty has been carrying his shoulder. We are going to give them a chance to get absolutely right to go to the Lions camp and gain that experience.
“Particularly for someone like Hendy, hopefully he'll come back to the Ulster team having gathered a lot of experience. That decision has been made. We possibly could have pushed it but at the beginning of the week, we said 'no, no.'
"Jared is probably two weeks (away). Next weekend he would have been alright. If we were in the hunt, he would have been up in there. He's going to be absolutely flying (for the Lions).
“You'd hate for him to come on and do something (injury related). It's a once in a life time experience and we have agreed internally.”
With regard to Pienaar lining out for a final competitive home game before he likely joins Montpellier, Kiss said:
“I spoke the medics this morning and he's running around this morning. There shouldn't be any issue with that one. He's super keen to play.”
Kiss also been confirmed that scrum-half Paul Marshall will remain with the province next season and will provide competition for the incoming John Cooney.