Stephen Ferris faces a race against time if he is to be fit for Ireland’s visit to New Zealand and Australia next month.
Certainly he is out of Ulster’s starting line-up for Friday night’s Magners League clash with Connacht at Ravenhill and Ireland’s Thomond Park meeting with the Barbarians on Friday, June 4 after fracturing a cheekbone in a training ground accident yesterday.
But much more worrying is the fact that he may miss out on Ireland’s forthcoming matches against the All Blacks in New Plymouth on June 12 , New Zealand Maori in Rotorua on June 18 and Australia in Brisbane on June 26.
With 2011 being a World Cup year, every game between now and then is significant and the loss of the Lions’ blindside flanker is something Irish coach Declan Kidney could have done without
Ferris, who scored the fifth try in Ulster’s bonus point win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on April 25, suffered a facial injury in training with a subsequent x-ray revealing a fractured cheekbone requiring surgery.
The best case scenario is six weeks on the sidelines, with eight weeks more probable.
Ferris had been in the 29-man squad named by Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin during yesterday’s lunch-time media session at Newforge, but his name was withdrawn in mid-afternoon when the full extent of his injury was realised.
Paddy Wallace is also expected to miss the Connacht clash and is also facing a fitness race for Ireland's summer tour Down Under.
Wallace injured his thigh against the Ospreys last month and has not played since and, despite daily physio, is still having problems with a flexor muscle. Although he was named in coach Brian McLaughlin's extended 29-man squad for the derby clash, Wallace is not expected to play any part. Recalled to the squad for Ulster’s final outing of 2009/10 are Declan Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Timoci Nagusa and Tommy Seymour.
Leinster-bound scrum-half Isaac Boss is included for what, if he plays, will be his final appearance in the white shirt.
McLaughlin is determined to bring the curtain down in style, leaving his players and the Ravenhill faithful with something positive to ponder over during the summer break, not least because they have a place in next season’s Heineken Cup.
Forwards: T Court, B Young, B J Botha, D Fitzpatrick, N Brady, R Best, A Kyriacou, R Caldwell, N McComb, E O'Donoghue, D Tuohy, C Henry, R Diack, T J Anderson, W Faloon.
Backs: P Marshall, I Boss,I Humphreys, N O'Connor, I Whitten, P Wallace, D Cave, A Trimble, S Danielli, J Smith, N Spence, T Nagusa, T Seymour.