Ulster back to their Best?

Mon, 06 Jan 2014 18:31
Large rorybestulster Large rorybestireland Large rory best b i lions face

Ulster hooker Rory Best may make a surprise return to action in his side's massive European Cup clash with Montpellier this weekend.

Ulster hooker Rory Best may make a surprise return to action in his side's massive European Cup clash with Montpellier this weekend.

The British and Irish Lions tourist missed the December double header with Treviso as Ulster picked up maximum points and had initially been expected to be out of action until at least the middle of this month.

Best hasn't played since breaking his arm in Ireland's agonizing defeat to New Zealand on November 23 but BBC Sport are reporting that he returned to some sort of contact training last week.

Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe hasn't commented on those rumours but the club haven't ruled the 31-year-old out of the tie against the French side at Ravenhill on Friday.

If Best is available for selection, it would be a huge boost for the 2012 European Cup finalists as they look to cement top spot in Pool Five ahead of a mouth-watering trip to Leicester Tigers a week on Saturday.

Ulster have won all four of their pool games so far, with their back-to-back victories over Treviso preceded by a 22-16 home win over Leicester and a stunning 25-8 success on the road at Montpellier.

But, despite their fine showing so far, they are just three points ahead of the Tigers and could drop to second in the standings if they slip up on Friday or fail to fire at Welford Road in Round Six.

Best was in line to hit a half century of European Cup appearances prior his arm injury, with Ireland's first-choice No.2 just five games shy of that mark.

He has started 44 times and come on once as a replacement since his European debut back in the 2004/05 campaign and, until now, hadn't missed a European Cup tie since December 2010.

He started all seven games as Ulster reached the quarterfinals last time out and had again been an ever-present when they made it all the way to the showpiece event the previous year.

Prior to December's wins over Treviso, the last time Ulster named a European Cup starting side without Best in it was when they won at Bath in the pool stages three years ago.

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Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
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Leicester Tigers 6 2 0 4 8
Racing Metro 6 1 0 5 5
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Wasps 6 4 1 1 22
Toulouse 6 3 2 1 18
Connacht 6 4 0 2 18
Zebre 6 0 0 6 0
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 6 5 1 0 24
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Sale Sharks 6 1 0 5 4
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 4 1 1 23
Montpellier 6 3 0 3 16
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Northampton Saints 6 2 0 4 9
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 26
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 14
Exeter Chiefs 6 2 0 4 12
Ulster 6 2 0 4 10