Ulster have rejected an accusation from Stade Francais president Max Guazzini that their British and Irish Lions hero Stephen Ferris changed his evidence before the ERC disciplinary appeal panel that upheld Julien Dupuy's ban for eye-gouging.
The timing of the row could not be worse for Ferris and Ulster with Brian McLaughlin’s side due to face Edinburgh at Ravenhill tonight in the Heineken Cup (8.00pm) — regarded as their most important game since winning the competition in 1999.
Dupuy was caught on camera probing the eyes of Ferris during their December Heineken Cup clash and an ERC panel banned the French international for 24 weeks, before reducing it by a week.
However, the controversial Guazzini launched a tirade of anger at the ERC and Ferris whom he claimed had originally told the hearing that ‘he was slapped’.
“Ferris told the hearing there was no gouging and that he was slapped and the ban was excessive, totally unjustified,” alleged Guazzini.
Guazzini went on: “We will not leave it here and we will be making representations to LNR and the French Rugby Federation.
“It is a very heavy sanction. They (ERC) wanted to make an example and the fact Dupuy is French probably played a role.”
But in the wake of these extraordinary allegations, Ulster have moved swiftly to defend their man and stated that at no time during the course of events did Ferris divert from the stance he took in the original hearing.
“Ulster Rugby have been made aware of the apparent allegations made against our player, Stephen Ferris by Stade Francais president Max Guazzini,” said an Ulster spokesman.
“As far as we are concerned, Stephen remained consistent in his explanation of what happened during the incident and the ERC made their decision based on the evidence that was put forward.
“As a result of this, Ulster Rugby considers the matter now closed.”
Wednesday's three-man appeal panel found that the six-month ban, handed out by the independent judicial officer Jeff Blackett last month, had been determined in error, albeit a minor one.
While Ulster state they consider the matter closed, it may not be as simple as that as there is now the possibility that they will now be drawn into a further disciplinary row with Guazzini sure to be forced to explain his accusations.