Ulster must get on without Lions - Peel
Ulster assistant coach Dwayne Peel has defended the IRFU policy which sees the province taking on reigning league champions Scarlets this Friday still without their Lions contingent.
While the Welsh region confirmed yesterday that they plan to have their own Lions trio of Leigh Halfpenny, Jon Davies and Ken Owens all in their squad when they pitch up at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night (7.35pm kick-off), their hosts will again not have Rory Best, Jared Payne and Iain Henderson available.
It is not only in Wales where returning Lions have already been restored to playing squads, England's own representatives having featured as early as the first week of the Aviva Premiership.
But the IRFU's long-standing policy on player welfare means front-line players have their game minutes strictly managed over the course of a season with a view to avoiding burnout and maximising success on the international stage.
And Peel moved yesterday to clarify the province's position, adding that each player should be taken as an individual case. "It is not something I control but obviously the guys need to get prepped and ready to play," said the former scrum-half who was a Test Lion himself in 2005.
"I think that you cannot rush them back too soon because you risk losing them at the end of season or having that potential burnout towards end of the season."
Along with their absent Lions contingent, Ulster will also be without Marcell Coetzee (knee) and Charles Piutau (tight hamstring) , although the hope is they will feature in the game against Dragons the following weekend.