Ulster are making no official comment on speculation in New Zealand and Australia that their newly appointed head man Jono Gibbes is being hunted by Wallaby coach Michael Cheika.
One Ravenhill insider said Gibbes has not been approached, and there is no way he would be going after just being elevated to a coaching post he always cherished.
Gibbes took over the role vacated by the sudden, though not unexpected, departure of director of rugby Les Kiss last month.
Gibbes was a close friend of Cheika while they were at Leinster together, but Australia are now looking for a new scrum guru following the departure of Mario Ledesma to coach his native Jaguares in Super Rugby. It appears, at present, that it’s all part of the rumour mill Down Under.
Meanwhile, Ulster’s sweat on the fitness of their departing high-profile star Charles Piutau were allayed yesterday when a scan showed he had popped a rib cartilage which will sideline him for four weeks at the most.
It was originally feared the Bristol-bound Piutau’s time at the Kingspan Stadium had come to a premature end when he departed in agony during Ulster’s 59-10 win over Southern Kings last Friday.
He is expected to miss the important clash against Edinburgh in Belfast this week and the following games against the high-flying Scarlets and Glasgow. Ulster are hoping he will be fit to return for the trip to Arms Park to face the Blues on the last weekend of March.
Exciting young winger Rob Lyttle will be out for at least six weeks after picking up an injury in the process of scoring against the Kings, while in-form flanker Sean Reidy will also be in the treatment room for the same time after injuring medial knee ligaments in the first half of the game.
It all adds to the long list of injuries, plus the absence of their Ireland trio. Their most capped player, Andrew Trimble, has returned from injury and is expected to make his 239th appearance in what is a must-win game for the province.
Ulster are in third place in Conference B, three points ahead of Edinburgh. Victory will go a long way in securing a play-off crack at Munster.
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