Scarlets admit defeat in bid to keep Tadhg Beirne from leaving for Munster
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has paved the way for Tadhg Beirne to confirm that he will soon link up with Munster by conceding that he cannot stand in the way of the versatile forward's imminent departure.
The Kildare man, who was released by Leinster two summers ago before helping the Welsh side claim the Guinness PRO12 title in May, is keen for the opportunity to play for Ireland, which won't be immediately realised should he remain overseas.
Initial contact had even been made as far back as last spring, before the play-offs, as the IRFU and Munster upped the ante in their attempts to repatriate the player but they were unsuccessful, with Scarlets refusing to let the player break his contract.
"We would love to keep Tadhg," said Pivac. "But he has got burning ambitions to play for Ireland like all our Welsh boys have to play for Wales and that is the way it should be.
"Part of it will be out of our control, but certainly we will be looking at other players as well. Tadhg came in from outside so if he were to go I am sure we will find someone to replace him."
Beirne, 25, who ironically made his debut against Munster at the start of last season, was one of the outstanding performers for the surprise winners of last year's championship.
Beirne also produced a man-of-the-match performance in last Saturday's bonus-point win over Edinburgh.
Ulster, meanwhile, have moved to allay fears that their injury-jinxed South African back-row star Marcell Coetzee faces another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
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Instead, they have indicated that they are hoping to target a return for him ahead of a crucial month of interprovincial and European action as he recovers from yet another knee problem.
The back-row forward hasn't played since the opening-day win against the Cheetahs in Belfast; his first Ulster campaign saw him manage only four games as he suffered two knee injuries in an 11-month period.
"It's tough for Marcell," admitted scrum coach Aaron Dundon. "He's still got a slight problem with his knee but hopefully he will be back in the picture next week.
"It's week by week management of it. Honestly, I don't think he's far away. He trained last week and he got through it pretty well.
"We've got four big games coming up so we've got to be sure we get him fit for those games."
Ulster face two successive Belfast dates against Irish opponents next month, with Connacht and Leinster visiting Kingspan Stadium, before they kick off their Champions Cup campaign with another home game against crack English Premiership side Wasps.
Ahead of their trip to Zebre this weekend, Ulster will welcome back Jean Deysel from an eye injury while Christian Leali'ifano and John Cooney are expected to return after they were rested for the facile Dragons victory last week. Luke Marshall also returns to the panel.
Jared Payne will also sit out this weekend's game but Dundon is hopeful the 31 year-old will return for the home game against Connacht in nine days' time.
Dragons' coach Bernard Jackman has defended his weakened selection in the crushing defeat to Ulster last week after a raft of criticism in recent days from ex-internationals.
"They're entitled to their opinions - we respect everyone's," said the former Irish hooker.
"We are not where we need to be but we're working as quickly as possible to become a team that can produce international rugby players.
"Obviously we are going to have to recruit. We're going to bring in some talent but we're going to have to get the foundations right, which is a culture, a really good work ethic."