Boost for Ulster as both Best and Stockdale set for injury return

The Ireland pair have yet to feature this season, but are expected to make a comeback in the next two weeks.

BOTH RORY BEST and Jacob Stockdale are set to return to full fitness ahead of Ulster’s Champions Cup pool opener and Ireland’s November internationals after missing the first four weeks of the season. 

The Ireland pair have now returned to full training with the northern province, and are expected to make their seasonal debuts in the Guinness Pro14 inter-pros over the coming two weekends.

Jacob Stockdale Stockdale has been sidelined with a hamstring problem. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Best’s return from the hamstring injury that kept him out of Ireland’s summer tour of Australia has been managed carefully by the Ulster medical team, but he is now set to return to action for the first time since the April.

Stockdale, meanwhile, suffered a grade-two hamstring tear during pre-season and has been sidelined for the last eight weeks.

The availability of the 22-year-old winger, in addition to that of Best, would be a timely boost for Dan McFarland as Ulster look to continue their strong start to the season over the coming weeks.

The northern province face into back-to-back Pro14 inter-pros against Munster on Saturday [KO 7.35pm eir Sport/Premier Sport] and Connacht at Kingspan Stadium in round six, before opening their Champions Cup pool campaign at home to Leicester Tigers on Saturday 13 October.

Assuming they both come through their respective returns unscathed, Best and Stockdale will be back in contention for Ireland’s November internationals, as Joe Schmidt’s side face Italy, New Zealand, USA and Argentina in a busy Autumn schedule.

Meanwhile, John Cooney has recovered from the scalp laceration he sustained in Ulster’s defeat of the Southern Kings a fortnight ago and is available for selection for this weekend’s inter-pro in Limerick.

The Ireland scrum-half has been in excellent form and is an important player for McFarland, as Ulster bid to maintain their unbeaten start to the season after last week’s draw with the Cheetahs in South Africa.

But Marcell Coetzee (shoulder), Wiehahn Herbst (groin), Rob Herring (toe), Sean Reidy (hamstring) and Henry Speight (knee) all suffered injuries during that game and have been ruled out this week.

John Cooney kicks a penalty John Cooney is fit for Ulster. Source: Richard Huggard/INPHO

Craig Gilroy (abdominal muscle) and Will Addison (back spasm) were also among the causalities as Ulster returned home from their two-week trip to South Africa, and are rated as doubts for Munster.

There was, however, no mention of Jordi Murphy in Ulster’s injury update, despite the flanker suffering ankle ligament damage during his debut for the province earlier this month.

Murphy missed the games against the Kings and Cheetahs and is unlikely to be fit for this weekend.

Peter Browne (concussion), David Busby (knee), Louis Ludik (hamstring), Chris Henry (calf), Rob Lyttle (knee), Luke Marshall (knee), Kyle McCall (elbow), Marty Moore (calf), Tommy O’Hagan (foot), Jack Owens (concussion) are all definitely out.

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Ryan Bailey

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