Ferris talks on hold after ankle operation

Ulster's Stephen Ferris sustains his ankle injury against Edinburgh last November. The player underwent his second surgery of the season yesterday.

Ulster's Stephen Ferris sustains his ankle injury against Edinburgh last November. The player underwent his second surgery of the season yesterday.

 

Stephen Ferris underwent his second ankle operation of the season yesterday, almost certainly ruling him out of this summer’s Lions tour of Australia.

It also means the 27-year-old’s management company, Corner Flag Ltd, can only begin negotiations with the IRFU over a new contract for the abrasive flanker when a full post-op medical report becomes available.

Ferris’ current deal runs out this summer. His initial operation on ankle tendons, damaged against Edinburgh on November 2nd, was expected to have him back in contention for the Six Nations.

Yesterday’s procedure was to clean up irritation along the ankle joint line, to improve range and motion when he does return to action. That, in all likelihood, will be next season although there remains a chance Ferris will return to action in May. There are no long-term repercussions expected from the latest bout of injury problems suffered by the Maghaberry native.

However, his career has been blighted by ankle, knee and back problems. Still, it is not believed Ferris will be dropping down from a national to provincial deal, despite the union actively trimming the number of centrally-contracted players from 30 plus to the teens.

New criteria

The new criteria for a central contract is that a player, when fit, must be a guaranteed starter for Ireland with the provinces having to bear the financial brunt as a result.

Ferris has won 35 caps since his debut against the Pacific Islanders at Lansdowne Road in November 2006, a day when Jamie Heaslip and Luke Fitzgerald also made their maiden voyages in a green jersey.

Heaslip has gone on to feature in 58 Test matches, Fitzgerald just 25. Fitzgerald’s representatives, Platinum One, are still in talks with Leinster about extending his current one-year deal.

The Paddy Wallace contractual situation is equally concerning. The 33-year-old has been on a national contract for the past five years with his most recent one-year deal up this summer. Wallace ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Glasgow on Friday night and is facing into at least six months of rehabilitation, leaving him in a similar position to Fitzgerald last year.

Ulster’s most capped player (188 games) is seeking a one-year extension from Ulster with his trump card, presuming he regains fitness, being the ability to cover Luke Marshall, who will presumably be away on international duty next season.

Much like Leo Cullen in Leinster, Wallace’s agent Ryan Constable, who also represents Ferris and Andrew Trimble, will presumably play the loyalty card in negotiations after 12 years of service at Ravenhill.

Trimble is another senior Ulster player coming off a national contract, seeking a two-year deal from Ulster, having dropped down the international pecking order in recent seasons.

Retained positions

Ironically, Trimble and Wallace retained their positions in the Ulster side this season, at inside centre and wing, despite the promotion of team-mates Marshall and Craig Gilroy to the Ireland squad in their place.

Meanwhile, confirmation by Leinster manager Guy Easterby earlier this week that the province are in the market for a foreign outhalf to replace Jonathan Sexton may prove good news for Ronan O’Gara.

O’Gara, 36 next month, has yet to sign a new contract with Munster but presuming Leinster get permission from the IRFU to go overseas for an outhalf, it would deny Munster coach Rob Penney the chance to replace O’Gara. New rules, announced last season by IRFU director of rugby Eddie Wigglesworth, mean only one foreign player can be signed in each position by Leinster, Munster and Ulster.

“We are looking to recruit an outhalf,” said Easterby on Monday. “We are in a position where we expected Johnny to stay right up to the last minute.

“When it comes to the end of January if you are looking for a real top-class 10 then most of them have been snapped up but there are always one or two outliers and you can get lucky. We are working hard to find a quality player to come in and work alongside Ian Madigan.”

Leinster will have freed up a foreigner slot due to Heinke van der Merwe’s move to Stade Francais, with home-grown pair Jack McGrath and Jack O’Connell to understudy Cian Healy at loosehead prop.

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