RUGBY: Rory Best back to lead Ulster ahead of crucial period
Ireland's Grand Slam Six Nations captain, Rory Best, will return to domestic action this weekend as Ulster go into the start of four huge matches in the Guinness PRO14.
Best was not involved in the defeat away to Cardiff Blues two weeks ago but the talismanic figure will lead the side this weekend in a crunch Conference B game away to Edinburgh.
The Scots lie in third place are 13 points ahead of the Irish Province in the Conference.
Ulster’s hopes of making the PRO14 Championship play-offs are all but gone - they need to overhaul Edinburgh to do that - however, European Champions Cup qualification does remain a realistic proposition as the Province go into their final four games of the season.
As it stands, Ulster sitting in fourth place as they do, will guarantee them a play-off for the final seventh European place from the PRO14.
But with Benetton Rugby lying only a point behind them and with an easier run-in, Ulster know they cannot afford to continue with the form they have been delivering in their past few outings which saw loses to Edinburgh, Scarlets and the Blues.
With Ulster not involved in the later stages of this year’s European Cup, they are likely to have no further restrictions imposed on their three Six Nations winning heroes, Jacob Stockdale, Iain Henderson and Best.
Stockdale and Henderson were both involved in the loss at Cardiff, but Best’s return will be a further boost for an Ulster side under huge pressure on and off the pitch.
“Rory has come back in and he’s got right in front of it,” said Ulster head coach, Jono Gibbes yesterday.
“He got the guys focussed straight away this morning (at training).
“Injury wise, I think we are starting to get most people back on board, we didn’t pick up anything new last time out, with Sean Riedy back in contention as well.”
Gibbes accepted it was a huge month ahead but he was not looking any further than going to Edinburgh.
“We’ve got four left, but we’ve got to get Friday night, we’ve got to get that right this weekend,” he added.