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Ireland confident Stephen Ferris will avoid ban

By Duncan Bech

Ireland today admitted they are "very disappointed" with the decision to cite flanker Stephen Ferris.

Ferris has been cited for his tip-tackle on lock Ian Evans in the final minute of Saturday's 23-21 RBS 6 Nations defeat by Wales.

The Ulster blindside flanker must appear before an independent championship disciplinary committee in London tomorrow.

Ireland team manager Michael Kearney is confident Ferris will escape a ban for an incident that many felt did not even warrant the yellow card he received from referee Wayne Barnes.

"We are very disappointed to hear this," said Kearney.

"The hearing will take place at lunchtime tomorrow and we will let due process take place before we say anything else.

"I will travel with Stephen. He does have an exemplary disciplinary record.

"He has played 31 times for Ireland and has never received so much as a yellow card.

"The last yellow card he received was more than two years ago (with Ulster) and he has never once received a yellow card for any form of foul play.

"We are hopeful that we will get the right result tomorrow."

Wales lock Bradley Davies has also been cited for the same offence, which is defined under the International Rugby Board's Law 10.4 (j).

It states: "Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground, such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground, is dangerous play."

Davies' challenge on Ireland replacement Donnacha Ryan was far more alarming, yet he received an identical punishment to Ferris of a yellow card and penalty.

While the tip tackles were at different ends of the spectrum, Ferris could also be suspended as part of the IRB's drive to rid the game of such a potentially dangerous offence.

Meanwhile, Ireland have reported no injury concerns from their Six Nations opener.

Keith Earls has rejoined the camp after his newly-born first child, who was taken ill last week, returned home.

"Keith Earls is back with us and everything is well with his girl, which is great news," Kearney said. "He's in very good form and looking forward to the week."

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