Stephen Ferris’ Lions dream ended in agony yesterday when he was ruled out of the remainder of the trip to South Africa with a knee injury as Ireland’s tour jinx continued.
Wales captain Ryan Jones has been called up to replace the Ulster and Ireland flanker who becomes the fourth Irishman from the original 37-man squad to have his Lions ambitions destroyed. Scrum-half Tomas O’Leary and hooker Jerry Flannery were injured before the party left for South Africa while back-row Alan Quinlan was ruled out with suspension.
Ferris was in a strong position to be selected at blindside flanker for the first Test on Saturday week after a try-scoring cameo off the bench against the Golden Lions and a man-of-the match display against the Cheetahs last weekend, when he picked up his second try. England’s Tom Croft is now favourite for the No 6 jersey.
Ferris twisted his right knee during training on Monday and was brought to hospital in Durban yesterday morning where a scan revealed a tear that will rule him out of action for four-to-six weeks. Jones, the Ospreys back-row, was a late call-up on the last Lions trip to New Zealand in 2005 and became one of the few players to impress as the tourists lost the Test series 3-0.
Jones was on the shortlist for the captaincy before the Six Nations but had a poor tournament and lost out in the initial squad selection with the leader’s role handed to Ireland’s Paul O’Connell.
There was an argument for the Lions replacing Ferris with an openside flanker as Martyn Williams’ shoulder injury has limited his chances with David Wallace the only fit specialist No 7.
“Ryan Jones has been called up to replace Stephen Ferris who unfortunately sustained a knee injury during Monday afternoon’s training,” said head coach Ian McGeechan.
“He twisted his right knee in a drill and following a medical assessment it was decided he should undergo a scan which showed he had a grade two tear to his medial collateral ligament. This usually requires a four-to-six week recovery period and is severe enough to mean he will miss the rest of the tour.
“Ryan is on the standby reserve list and has been playing for Wales over the last few weeks. He showed how competitive he is as an individual in 2005 by forcing his way into the Test side,” added McGeechan.
There was further bad news for the Lions as Welsh winger Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out of the clash with the Sharks, where he is replaced by James Hook.