Stockdale battling to be fit for PRO14

Jacob Stockdale of Ulster following the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ulster have serious concerns they’ll be without Jacob Stockdale for the Guinness PRO14 quarter-final against Connacht next month.

The star wing suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Edinburgh 11 days ago and is definitely ruled out of this weekend’s final Conference B game against Leinster, with both teams expected to field a raft of inexperienced players at Kingspan Stadium ahead of important knockout games to come.

Stockdale missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury and asked if there were fears he could miss out again, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland admitted: “yeah, there are”.

“As we said on the injury report (last week) we’re going to keep monitoring him week on week. But there are definitely fears for the Connacht game.”

The mood is more positive about skipper Rory Best, who is hoping to overcome the ankle injury picked up in the Champions Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster. Speaking for the first time since the Ulster and Ireland captain announced he will retire from the game after this autumn’s World Cup, McFarland said he admired the 36-year-old’s decision.

I can only imagine how tough that decision was. When I made that decision, it wasn’t mine.

“Michael Bradley (then Connacht coach) called me aside (in 2006) and told it was probably time for me to retire, and he was right.

“You have to respect the fact that Rory is coming to a crescendo in his career with the World Cup and captaincy of Ireland.

“He wants to go out where he knows he is playing his best rugby and that’s his decision. We are hoping that he’ll be fit for the quarter-final.

“I really hope – and that’s just on a personal level, not even on a team level - that he’s able to lead the team out at Kingspan one last time.”

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