Ulster's Stephen Ferris a fitness doubt for Heineken clash

Stephen Ferris limps off against Aironi
Stephen Ferris limps off against Aironi

Stephen Ferris is a fitness concern for Ulster's Heineken Cup quarter-final with Munster next weekend after suffering an ankle injury on Friday.

The flanker limped off after 33 minutes of Ulster's 45-7 win over Aironi.

"He will have a scan on Monday just to see how it's healing up. We'll keep our fingers crossed but we're worried," said Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin.

Ferris said on Twitter on Saturday that he "hopefully" would be fit for the game at Thomond Park.

The Ireland star is a vital player for the Ravenhill outfit and coach McLaughlin did little to hide his concern after Friday's Pro12 game.

"Stephen rolled an ankle and it's swollen. It's probably worse than I thought," added coach McLaughlin.

Ironically, Ferris missed last year's Heineken Cup quarter-final clash against Northampton Saints after sustaining a serious knee injury against Aironi in Italy and will be desperate not to suffer the same fate again.

He will undergo intensive treatment over the weekend before a scan on Monday to assess the extent of the damage.

"Obviously as the week progresses we'll know more, but yes he's going to be a bit of a doubt,'' McLaughlin confirmed.

"We've got an extra couple of days as it (Munster) is a Sunday game, which could stand us in good stead. But we're worried, and that's quite simply the way it is.

"When you're playing against the Italians it's always extremely physical. There are always going to be bumps and bangs, but everybody else we brought off, we brought off as precautions and to rest. Stevie, at the minute, would be our major concern."

McLaughlin expressed some disappointment at the state of the Ravenhill pitch, which has hosted a number of junior and intermediate cup finals in the past month.

"It's very hard out there and the surface is breaking up a little bit. It's uneven in places.

"It's an occupational hazard so, from that point of view, it's disappointing. But we've got to keep everything crossed as we push towards a very important game."

The Ulster head coach was pleased with the result and the performance against Aironi.

However, he believes the team will have to improve their defence and be smarter in possession if they are to shock Munster and seal a place in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.

''We're under no illusions, we won't be able to be as extravagant with the football.

"We'll have to look after it a lot better and also from a defensive perspective, we got a little soft at times. We've got to make sure if we're going to go and count at Thomond Park those things cannot happen.

"In the last two weeks we've had tough games and tonight we came out and showed what we can do. We're a very dangerous rugby side when we are in control of the football.

"We're in an excellent position, I feel. If we can perform the way we're capable of and keep it going for the full 80 minutes, then I think we can come away with a momentous win."