Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Is Brian hearing good news?

A race against time, but Ulster coach says Ferris can win it and face Munster

All ears: Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin, pictured at Wednesday's press conference, would love to hear that Stephen Ferris will be fit for Sunday's big match

Ice, elevation, rehabilitation exercises and rest.

That is the treatment package which Ulster hope will nurse Stephen Ferris back to sufficiently good health to enable him to play in Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster at Thomond Park.

Despite the flanker having sprained his left ankle, coach Brian McLaughlin has included him in his 34-man provisional squad.

McLaughlin also gave a fairly thinly disguised hint that he is likely to buy time by naming Ferris when the team is announced today before making a final decision on Sunday.

Tellingly, when asked if he might be tempted to name Ferris in his 23 today and then decide on match-day whether or not he was up to playing, his response was: “That will be definitely in our thoughts.

“We’ll leave it with Stevie and the medics and we’ll leave it as late as possible.”

So although a lot of people elsewhere already appear to have decided that Ulster’s outstanding blindside is not going to make it, no-one within the camp seems to be thinking in such negative terms.

As far as Ulster are concerned it remains a case of keep working, keep hoping and keep your fingers crossed that Mother Nature and Father Time align themselves with the medical team — head physiotherapist Gareth (GG) Robinson, assistant Alan McCaldin and Dr Michael Webb.

“We’ve named him in our squad, he’s progressing, we’re reassessing the situation daily and we’ll just see how he progresses as the week goes on,” McLaughlin said.

“There’s no doubt that we are very keen to have him fit and very keen to have him playing.

“The scan that he has had has obviously sorted out a few issues and the medics at the minute are working away on him.

“It’s really just a battle against time.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed. As the week progresses we’ll know more.

“He’s still doubtful, but we’ve got to hope that he will be fit. We’re just waiting to see.”

Asked about Ferris’s condition at this point, McLaughlin’s answer was: “He’s comfortable at the minute.

“He hasn’t run or anything like that so far, so we’ll not know until later in the week when we’ll see what the story is.”

McLaughlin and the medical team will sit down today to see how much, if any, of the captain’s practice Ferris is capable of doing.

“It’s a race against time,” the coach repeated. “We want him to play, he wants to play so we just have to play it by ear.”

McLaughlin also confirmed that Ulster will not be bringing in help from outside, their view being that they already have all the expertise they require in-house.

It is not a matter of not knowing what to do. The injury itself is not difficult to treat; the only problem is the time factor.

“He’s being treated by the physios here day and daily.

“He’s getting the best possible treatment,” McLaughlin explained.

“I have every confidence in Gareth and our medics to make sure that they’ll have him right.

“We’re very happy with the treatment he’ll get here and certainly with Dr Michael Webb and GG and Alan McCaldin we’re more than confident in those guys.

“They’ve worked wonders in the past so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that they can work wonders again.”

McLaughlin also highlighted the fact that injury had forced Ferris to miss last season’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints — Ulster’s first last-eight appearance in 12 years — and stressed that a repeat of that misfortune would be a very cruel blow.

“We want to give him as much time to prove his fitness as possible,” the coach said.

“He missed out last year. He got a knee injury at Aironi which nearly robbed him of his World Cup place as well, so from that point we’re obviously keen as a team for Stevie not to miss out this time and we’ll be doing everything in our power to see that he’s fit to go. But, as I’ve said, it’s a race against time.”

Provisional squad

Forwards: Callum Black, Tom Court, Adam Macklin, Declan Fitzpatrick, John Afoa, Paddy McAllister, Rory Best, Nigel Brady, Andi Kyricaou, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Johann Muller (captain), Neil McComb, Stephen Ferris, Mike McComish, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.

Backs: Paul Marshall, Ruan Pienaar, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Paddy Wallace, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Stefan Terblanche, Conor Gaston, Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Adam D’Arcy.