Ulster v Clermont Auvergne: Gilroy joins trio of backs on injured list

Craig Gilroy picked up an injury in the Pro12 win over Cardiff
Craig Gilroy picked up an injury in the Pro12 win over Cardiff
European Champions Cup Pool 5: Ulster v Clermont Auvergne
Date: Saturday, 10 December Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast Kick-Off: 13:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website

Craig Gilroy has joined fellow backs Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne and Stuart Olding in being ruled out of Ulster's European Champions Cup Pool Five game against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.

The absence of the injured quartet is a major blow for the Irish province, who lie six points behind their opponents.

Rory Best and Paddy Jackson return after Ireland duty, with Best likely to captain the side at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster lost away to Bordeaux in their first game, then beat Exeter at home.

Les Kiss's side failed to salvage a bonus point in France as they went down 28-13 to Bordeaux-Begles in their opening fixture, while a last-gasp drop goal from Paddy Jackson earned them a narrow 19-18 success over Premiership side Exeter a week later.

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Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss expects a tough challenge against Clermont Auvergne

Best and Jackson both played in three of Ireland's four autumn internationals but were rested for last week's Pro12 win over Cardiff as part of the Ireland player welfare management programme.

Fellow Ireland players Payne and Trimble are ruled out with kidney and ankle problems respectively, both sustained in the victory over Australia at the Aviva Stadium on 26 November.

The fitness of Trimble, Payne and Gilroy will be assessed before the return fixture against the Top 14 leaders the following weekend.

Gilroy suffered an injury in the Pro12 game with Cardiff at the Arms Park.

On a more positive note, Robbie Diack is fit, while second row Alan O'Connor is being monitored as he recovers from a concussion sustained a few weeks ago.

Ulster lie third in Pool Five on four points and need a win to maintain realistic hope of progressing to the quarter-final knockout stages for the first time since 2014.

Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana
Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana will pose a major threat to Ulster's European hopes

Clermont head coach Franck Azema can call upon an array of talented internationals, including French stars Wesley Fofana and Morgan Parra, as they aim to consolidate their dominance of the pool which has yielded 10 points from two outings.

The French side lost 40-35 to Pau in the Top 14 last weekend.

Ulster have however won seven of their last eight matches against French opposition in Europe's premier competition in Belfast, their only reverse coming against eventual winners Toulon in October 2014.

This time last year, Kiss's men put Toulouse to the sword at Ravenhill, scoring five tries in a 38-0 win, before triumphing 25-23 in France a week later.

Exeter host Bordeaux-Begles on Sunday at 17:30 GMT in the weekend's other Pool Five fixture.

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Chris Henry returned to action against Cardiff Blues after a long spell out with injury