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Anscombe gives Ferris hope of playing key role

While it may not have matched the volume of the Aviva Stadium's salute to the retiring Brian O'Driscoll against Italy last week, Ravenhill will rarely be as raucous as it was last night when crowd favourite Stephen Ferris finally ended his injury nightmare.

The 28-year-old hadn't featured since injuring an ankle back in November of 2012 and suffering a seemingly interminable litany of setbacks on his route back to action.

A popular figure within the squad and on the terraces, the 2009 British and Irish Lion is one of Ulster's bona fide stars and his emergence in the 62nd minute brought every spectator in attendance to their feet.

Jordan Williams, the impressive Scarlets full-back, was the first to feel the full force of the Ireland Grand Slam winner's frustration as the young Welshman, having claimed a high ball milliseconds prior, was driven back over 10 metres by the onrushing Ferris.

The flanker continued to play with little disregard for his own safety, thundering around the pitch and into contact, and it would be an unquantifiable boost to Ulster if his body can hold up for the rest of the season.

After the game, head coach Mark Anscombe reflected: "He's huge, he is a big part of Ulster. The script was written for him with that ball being put up and then making that big hit."

"It gives him a lot of confidence to get through 20 minutes and hopefully the ankle pulls up well tomorrow. There's a lot of rugby to go the rest of the year and he can have a big part in that."

By the time Ferris entered the fray, another returning Irish international had already put Ulster into a winning position.

Having been involved from the bench in each of Ireland's four Six Nations games to date, Paddy Jackson would no doubt have expected to spend last night in Paris preparing for Ireland's title decider against the French.

However, with Leinster's Ian Madigan surprisingly taking his place on the bench, the out-half was released.

After a quarter of an hour Jackson opened the scoring when his grubber through the Scarlets backline took a fortuitous bounce back into his hands for a score.

The nine-times capped international then turned creator when he burst through a gap in the Scarlets backline and offloaded for Tommy Bowe .

That combination was reversed soon after when Jackson ran an excellent inside line on the shoulder of Bowe and the wing's delicate pass allowed the former Methody pupil to canter through.

Jackson will travel to France today to be with the Ireland squad ahead of the clash with Philipe Saint-Andre's side; on the basis of last night, he is hugely unfortunate that it is not in a playing capacity.

Belfast Telegraph