Ulster star Jacob Stockdale out for 6-8 weeks after hamstring tear
Ulster have been dealt a major blow ahead of the new season with their star Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale sidelined by injury.
Stockdale, Six Nations player of the tournament earlier this year, faces six to eight weeks out.
Ulster tweeted: "Jacob Stockdale suffered a grade 2 hamstring strain in training and is expected to return to play in 6-8 weeks."
Ulster launch their Guinness PRO14 campaign against the Scarlets on September 1.
The 22-year-old scored a Six Nations-record seven tries in last season's tournament, and is a key member of the Ulster squad.
An eight-week absence would see Stockdale available again just before the Heineken Champions Cup begins in October.
Ulster are in the same Champions Cup group as Leicester, Racing 92 and Scarlets.
Ulster star Stockdale has made an outstanding start to his international career, scoring 11 tries in 11 Tests.
He played a pivotal role when Ireland swept to the Six Nations title in Grand Slam fashion five months ago, and he was also part of their successful Australia tour earlier this summer.
Ireland's opening Test of the 2018-19 season is against Italy in Chicago on November 3, which is followed by Dublin appointments with Argentina, world champions New Zealand and the United States.
There was better news for Munster's Tommy O'Donnell who has returned from the shoulder injury he suffered against the Scarlets in March and has been training with the squad for the last number of weeks.
Jean Kleyn, who ended last season with a routine ankle procedure, has also returned to full training.
Stephen Archer, who sustained a pec injury against Edinburgh in early May, is advancing with his rehabilitation and is expected to make a return in the opening stage of the new campaign.
Sammy Arnold (knee) and Niall Scannell (shoulder) required respective minor knee and shoulder procedures during the off-season and are progressing well with their return to play rehabilitation.
Chris Cloete (groin), Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) and Conor Oliver (toe) are all being managed by the medical department, with Oliver undergoing surgery earlier this week after sustaining a foot injury during a gym session.
Those continuing to rehab longer-term injuries include Chris Farrell (knee), Liam O’Connor (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), and Ronan O’Mahony (ankle).