Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Ulster Rugby to weigh up Stephen Ferris risk

Ulster's Stephen Ferris has just made his comeback

Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris has warned that he is not quite out of the woods yet, despite his return to rugby after almost a year and a half on the sidelines with an ankle injury that required three operations and months of rehabilitation to get him playing again.

And with Ulster's next game against Cardiff Blues on the Arms Park artificial 4G pitch – a surface that puts additional stress on joints – the 28-year-old Lions and Ireland star admitted there is no guarantee he will be playing in Saturday night's PRO12 game in the Welsh capital.

"I'm not sure what the situation will be with playing on a 4G pitch, but we'll talk about it this week," said Ferris with an obvious eye to playing some part in Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Ravenhill a week after that Arms Park game.

"It would be good to maybe get another half an hour off the bench or something like that to give myself a chance," added the Ulster hero (right).

Not surprisingly Ulster are adhering to a carefully structured, monitored programme as they attempt to ease their world-class blind-side back to full participation.

To that end Ferris had a 20-minute run against Newport Gwent Dragons, followed by a full first-half shift against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday night.

Ferris was candid in saying: “It's tough when you come on for 20 minutes or 40 minutes to get a bit of momentum and get the ball rolling for myself. It's tough to find form, especially when I've been out for so long.

“I'd say I'm a good bit off full fitness. The running is not an issue — it's taking the impact, smashing into rucks and mauls; that's the tough bit. It's about gaining that match fitness. Twenty minutes last week, 40 minutes this week — that's good stepping stones.

“But I'm definitely not out of the woods. I think people have got to understand that just because I'm back playing rugby doesn't mean I'm 100 per cent fit and ready to go.

“It's all about a rehabilitation process and trying to build back to that 80-minute performance.”

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