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Jared Payne in race to be fit for Champions Cup but Ulster 'erring on the side of caution'

And Marcell Coetzee remains sidelined

Payne hasn't played since the Lions tour.
Payne hasn't played since the Lions tour.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

JARED PAYNE’S COMEBACK from the ongoing migraines which cut his Lions tour short stepped up a notch this week, but Ulster are wary of throwing him back into the mix too soon.

The Ireland centre has yet to make an appearance this season and despite Ulster initially saying he would be available for last week’s trip to Zebre, it’s now unlikely he’s going to feature against Connacht on Friday.

“He participated in the session yesterday, so we’ve just monitored that to see what his reaction was and how he goes,” Jono Gibbes said when asked if Payne would definitely miss the interpro clash.

“It’s a short week this week, there’s only two sessions this week plus Thursday’s captain’s run. We’re probably erring on the side of caution a lot with him.  End of the week for him, see how he goes and what he does during the week whether it’s with us or not. We’ll see how he reacts, what tolerance he builds up and go from there.”

Payne had been given the medical all-clear by specialists during the summer, and it’s not known if this extended absence s because of another issue or not.

Either way, the 31-year-old is in a race to be fit for Ulster’s opening Champions Cup pool game against Wasps on Friday week with the situation regarding Marcell Coetzee still enshrouded by uncertainty.

Ulster’s medical staff continue to monitor the South African as he continues to recover from a knee injury which has sidelined him since the opening night victory over the Cheetahs.

“Marcell will not be ready this week and we will get some strong information on him later this week from our specialist on where he will be,” Les Kiss said at the Champions Cup launch on Monday.

Rory Best, meanwhile, has suffered ‘no setbacks’ and has earmarked his potential return for the second Champions Cup outing against La Rochelle on 22 October following the hamstring injury he suffered in training.

Ulster are confident Louis Ludik will be fit and available for Friday’s visit of Connacht to Kingspan Stadium, with the northern province bidding to bounce back from the disappointing defeat to Zebre.

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