Ulster left decimated by injuries following Heineken Cup exit
Ulster have been left with a considerable casualty count following their Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Saracens on Saturday.
Scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, hooker Rory Best, lock Dan Tuohy and number eight Roger Wilson will all be sidelined for lengthy periods after being injured during the 17-15 defeat at Ravenhill.
Pienaar suffered a recurrence of shoulder trouble and now faces at least six weeks on the sidelines, while Ireland international Best sustained what Ulster described as "a significant ankle sprain" and will be out for between six and eight weeks.
Ulster also confirmed that Tuohy will undergo surgery this week to repair a fractured hand, with Wilson absent due to a fractured thumb.
Wing Andrew Trimble, meanwhile, will follow return-to-play protocols after being concussed in the Saracens clash, and prop John Afoa's back injury means he will miss the RaboDirect PRO12 appointment with Connacht on Friday.
Ulster are currently third in the PRO12, well on course to make next month's title play-offs as they prepare for remaining regular season games against Connacht, Glasgow, Leinster and Munster.
Connacht had much better news to report with the return after a six-month absence due to a foot injury for flanker Willie Falloon.
Also making a return from injury at the weekend was forward George Naoupu.
Meanwhile, the availability of back rower Mata Fifita is in doubt following a shoulder injury picked up in training on Monday.
Backs Matt Healy (hamstring) and Craig Ronaldson (groin) remain unavailable.