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Donald set for role with Ulster

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    10 Jan 2018     Getty Images

The 34-year-old is to join Ulster on a short-term contract as a replacement for Brumbies and Australia international five-eighths Christian Laeli'ifano who is to return to Australia.

Meanwhile, doubt continues over the role that former New Zealand player, and Ireland and British & Irish Lions player Jared Payne will be able to play for the battling Irish province.

The Irish Times reported Donald's signing will be officially confirmed in the next few days and he will rejoin his former Chiefs team-mate Jono Gibbes, who is the side's head coach.

Donald, who played Investec Super Rugby for the Chiefs last year and Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016, has been playing in Japan for Toshiba Brave Lupus and is expected to join Ulster when the Japanese club's campaign ends.

Leali'ifano will play his final game for Ulster at the weekend in a key European Champions Cup tie against La Rochelle before returning to rejoin the Brumbies.

Gibbes was asked to comment on whether Donald had been signed but said that wasn't his decision to announce and that there was nothing to announce at the moment anyway.

The club's operations staff would deal with that.

"I've kind of been consumed myself with putting my energy into what will actually make a difference on Saturday," he said.

Ulster's form this season has seen them lose to Connacht and Leinster in Pro14 play but they are still a chance to top their group in the Champions Cup, sitting two points behind pool leaders La Rochelle.

It will require a turnaround by the side after their 7-38 loss to Leinster at the weekend.

"It is exciting to be in round five in Europe, be at home, and have so much on the line," Gibbes said.

"But it perhaps a bit disappointing [that we're] coming into a big occasion like that having to address a few things from last Saturday that clearly were not good enough."

However, the career of former Crusaders, Blues and Northland centre Payne is at a crossroads. Payne qualified for Ireland, played in the country's first win over the All Blacks.

But a head injury suffered during the tour has not cleared and he continues to suffer headaches. He has been deregistered from Ulster's Champions Cup squad and it is possible he may not play at all during the remainder of the season.