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Ferris back to boost Ulster in Swansea

By Gavin Mairs

While Stephen Ferris is set to make a welcome return to the Ulster squad for the Magners League trip to the Ospreys on Saturday, a major question mark hangs over captain Rory Best.

Ferris was yesterday named in a 25-man squad for the trip to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea having missed Ulster’s first three league games with a back injury he sustained during Ireland’s tour of Australia in June.

However, the return of the big backrow forward was tempered with an injury concern to Best, who underwent a scan on Monday on a knee injury.

“Besty has got a bang on his knee and we will be very conservative of that — we won’t be making a call on it until very late in the week,” said Williams.

As for the return of Ferris, who is likely to start the game on the bench with the view of making a big impact in the game as Ulster seek to break their league duck, Williams said it was a huge boost to the squad.

“It is great to have Stevie back in the set-up,” added Williams. “He played a lot of the Test against Australia and had a lot of travel in a very short period as well and that can be hard on your back.

“He had a scan and there was a fissure in his disc and with Steve we wanted to rehab him properly.

“We didn’t want him to come back for a week and then be out again so we have taken our time with him and he is very fit. He has been pain-free for a long time and is ready to play. We will get off the bench sometime this week.”

Also recalled to the squad are Paul Marshall, in place of Cillian Willis, Paul Steinmetz and Stuart Philpott, who provides cover in case Best does not make it.

Ferris is raring to go after missing Ulster's defeats to the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons.

"I don't mind if I play 6 or 8. I am just looking forward to getting some game time and getting back on that pitch," said Ferris.

"We always seem to do alright against the Ospreys, and if we can cut out the errors from previous games and keep our set piece play tight, then I think we can get a result.

"It will be a tough task against

the Ospreys, they are an impressive side, it is going to be strange playing against Tommy (Bowe) but the friendships will be left behind in the changing room."

The Ospreys — who have lost just once at the Liberty Stadium since last November — will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season.

“The Ospreys present a real physical challenge and have some superb individuals, it is a fantastic stadium to play in and a tough place to go," said Ulster assistant coach Steve Williams.

"As a player you have to be excited about facing against the Ospreys at the Liberty.

"All our players are looking forward to it, we know we have only been a dropped pass or missed kick away from being further up the table and we see the Ospreys game as our chance."

Ospreys (from): Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Shane Williams, Nikki Walker, Andrew Bishop, Gavin Henson, James Hook, Daniel Biggar, Rhodri Wells, Rhys Webb, Duncan Jones, Paul James, Adam Jones, Huw Bennett, Richard Hibbard, Ian Gough, Andrew Lloyd, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Tom Smith, Ryan Jones, Marty Holah.

Ulster (from): Justin Fitzpatrick; Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Rory Best, Brendon Botha, Carlo Del Fava, Ed O'Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell, Matt McCullough, Kieron Dawson, Robbie Diack, Thomas Anderson, Stuart Philpott, Stephen Ferris, Niall O'Connor; Bryn Cunningham, Timoci Nagusa, Rob Dewey, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble, Clinton Schifcofske, Isaac Boss, Paul Steinmetz, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys.

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