Ferris leaving Ulster
Stephen Ferris has played his last game for Ulster.
Ravenhill head coach Mark Anscombe admitted yesterday that he was resigned to losing the 27-year-old flanker – and, although it was later claimed his remarks had been used out of context, the message is clear.
Asked if he felt Ferris would be on his way at the end of the season, Anscombe replied: "Yeah, most probably at this stage. He is a great loss."
It was his use of the word 'is' rather than 'would be' that confirmed what the Belfast Telegraph has been saying for the last couple of months.
And when this newspaper sought to speak to Anscombe for clarification on the matter, we were told he would not be making any further comment.
Earlier, speaking to the BBC, the coach said: "I don't know if it is signed or sealed at this stage, that's for Stephen and his support team to make those decisions."
The support team – Ferris's agency – to which Anscombe referred is Cornerflag Management Ltd, founded by ex-Ulster player Ryan Constable who is BBC NI Ulster Rugby Live's co-commentator alongside Jim Neilly.
As the man overseeing Ferris's contract negotiations, Constable, now Cornerflag's managing director, was invited to provide answers. He did not reply.
Six weeks ago the Belfast Telegraph reported injury-prone Ferris's IRFU contract, wedding him to Ulster and expiring on June 30, was not being re-newed and that an unnamed club in Japan had offered the flanker a lucrative package.
There have been suggestions of interest from clubs in France and south of the equator, too.
Ferris's 2012-13 campaign has been pretty much a write-off.
This season's game-time for Ulster amounts to an off-the-bench appearance in the last quarter against Ospreys in early September, followed a week later by a full 80-minute shift against Munster at Ravenhill – his 100th outing for the province – just over an hour against Connacht at the start of October and, finally, 46 minutes against Edinburgh on November 2 when he suffered the ankle injury which has sidelined him ever since.
"We haven't had a lot of him this season because of injury," Anscombe admitted. "But he is a world-class player."
Ferris missed Ireland's two Guinness Series Tests in November and the whole of this year's RBS Six Nations Championship.
The story of his career has been that he is brilliant when fit, but increasingly he is injured more often than not.
Four years ago he made the Lions squad for the tour of South Africa where he started magnificently but a knee injury – picked up in training – ended his tour.
He missed the entire 2011 Six Nations campaign, recovering just in time for that autumn's World Cup in New Zealand.
Ferris has not donned an Ireland shirt since the March 17, 2012 Six Nations massacre by England.