Fresh fears for Marshall's career after Ulster centre suffers fifth concussion
ULSTER'S appalling run of injuries maintained its depressing regularity yesterday and the knock-on effects for Ireland are immediately obvious, with Dan Tuohy and Luke Marshall both likely to miss the entire Six Nations.
Marshall's injury is arguably more concerning for his future after the revelation that he has suffered a fifth concussion since March 2013 - aside from another bang of the head not officially diagnosed as concussion.
The latest incident happened in training and Marshall, just 23, has proved worryingly susceptible to such head knocks in his brief, largely unfulfilled career for club and country.
Ulster say he is following the return-to-play protocols and there is no suggestion that he may be removed from the game for a lengthy period, as he was in 2013 and is currently the case with Johnny Sexton in France, given that this is his first officially reported concussion in 11 months.
Lock Tuohy must undergo surgery on a torn thumb ligament today after sustaining damage in Sunday's victory in Treviso.
Tuohy had already missed a chunk of provincial and national duty late in 2014 after breaking his arm for the second time in the calendar year; the first time during Ireland's opening Six Nations game against Wales last February.
Ulster say he will now be out of rugby for "up to eight weeks" but the demands of the Irish international coaching staff for players to acquire full fitness will probably destroy his chances of featuring in the forthcoming title defence.
With Ulster doomed in their European campaign, avoiding humiliation on their trip to back-to-back champions Toulon is a priority this weekend but the absence of Wiehahn Herbst from the front-row with a hamstring injury is another huge blow to Neil Doak's beleaguered side.
News on Ulster's other Ireland players was understandably vague, with Iain Henderson reported to be making progress on the hip injury that he sustained in September; the "coming weeks" are the target for him and Andrew Trimble, last season's player of the year, who is recovering from toe surgery.
Nick Williams and Ronald Raymaakers (hamstring), Stuart McCloskey (elbow), Ricky Andrew (ear) and Chris Henry (heart surgery) are all still sidelined but Ruaidhri Murphy has recovered from the finger injury that he sustained playing club rugby for Ballynahinch in November.
Meanwhile, captain Rory Best has insisted his side are remaining calm despite nearly suffering another catastrophe in northern Italy when his side almost blew a 24-0 lead against hapless Treviso.
"We didn't feel under pressure," he said. "We felt if we stuck to our game it would happen. It just didn't. We probably tried to force it a bit.
"At 22-7 we were just short a few times. We just didn't have the discipline to get over the line. We tried to do a little bit too much on our own. When they came back at us, they took one visit into our 22 after 15 minutes of our pressure and we let them in too easy.
"We were soft around the fringes and we let them pick and go and smash us a little bit there.
"The first-half performance was good and we will take heart from that. Ultimately, we got the four points and that's what we went there for.
"We were probably just not patient enough. That was frustrating. You have to give credit that when they got momentum, we held on for the win. Having said that, we were disappointed with how the second half went.
"But if we keep picking up four points between now and the end of the season, we will be in a good place."