Belfast Telegraph

Ulster can win... with or without Ferris, says McLaughlin

By Niall Crozier

Whether or not Stephen Ferris is involved, Ulster’s faith in their ability to win Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Munster at Thomond Park continues.

Ideally coach Brian McLaughlin would prefer to have Ferris on board, of course.

But with or without his world class blindside flanker the Ulster coach is confident his team can deliver.

Last night he said: “Stephen would be a loss, no doubt about that. But we’re still hopeful that he’ll make it.

“He’s doubtful, but he isn’t ruled out.

“Hopefully he will be available, but if he isn’t I can assure you that we won’t be going down to Limerick expecting to lose.

“We have built a good squad so we’re confident in what we have now.

“Remember that there have been times in the past when he hasn’t been available and we have done well.”

Jonathan Bill of the Ulster Rugby Supporters’ Club highlighted some of the possibilities available to Ulster.

“Losing a British and Irish Lion, and arguably Ireland’s best player in the recent Six Nations tournament, is undoubtedly a bitter blow, particularly as this will mean Fez (Ferris) missing his second successive Heineken Cup quarter-final.

“It is also a chance to perform against many of his Irish team-mates in the gladiatorial theatre that is Thomond Park.

“But the reality is that he only plays a handful of games each season for Ulster. I am entirely comfortable that McGlocks (McLaughlin) and his coaching team will come up with a suitable alternative.

“This year’s squad is even stronger than last year: Willie Faloon at seven, with Chris Henry at six; or Robbie Diack at six; or indeed Diack at eight and Pedrie Wannenberg at six ... hey he could even put Dan Tuohy at six and keep Lewis Stevenson in the second row.

“Have faith, Fez is merely resting up for the semi-final!”

Yesterday’s scan revealed that while there is no bone problem, Ferris did suffer “significant ligament and muscle damage” when he went over on his ankle in Friday night’s match against Aironi at Ravenhill.

A spokesperson for Ulster Rugby said: “Some people heal up quite quickly from that sort of thing — and remember that we do have those extra couple of days.

“But at the moment, though, he is doubtful so it’s really a case of wait and see.”

The team must be named on Friday which means a real nail-biting race against the clock.

London-based world authority Nicola Maffulli told the Belfast Telegraph that depending on the exact nature of the injury the recovery period could be anything from six weeks to six months.

“Without having examined the patient I can only speak in general terms about an injury of this nature,” Dr Maffulli stressed.

“But paradoxically, an early scan — which is what they normally do in these cases — may actually confound the situation.

“Clinical examination should be performed again at 48 hours, and a scan performed at five to seven days.

“In the world of professional sport, though, they believe in doing everything immediately.

“In general, the first port of call is immobilisation in a boot, and then gradual rehabilitation.

“Full recovery? At best, six weeks. If an operation is required, one could be looking at six months.”

And he warned: “The most common cause of failure — in both conservative and operative management — comes from attempting too early a return to sport.

“In general, if not properly rehabilitated, a return to sport is dangerous.”

Mark Regan, Chief Executive at Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast also was able to offer a general overview of ankle sprains, though he too stressed that it was just that rather than an analysis of Ferris’s specific situation and chances of making a quick recovery. “Our consultant orthopaedic surgeons would recommend that following an ankle injury athletes require careful clinical assessment,” he said.

“Depending on the clinical assessment and x-ray or scan results, athletes require initial rest, ice and physiotherapy treatment.

“It can take up to six weeks to recover from a simple ligament injury. Furthermore, depending on the MRI scan results and response to treatment, some athletes may require surgery.”

Follow the progress of Irish rugby’s most talked about ankle right here every day

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