Ulster look set to be without Stephen Ferris for the start of the RaboDirect PRO12 season after the talismanic back-rower revealed the extent of his latest injury woes.
Ferris, who missed the entirety of Ireland’s ill-fated tour to New Zealand earlier this summer, has been sidelined since tasting defeat to Leinster in the final of the Heineken Cup back in May.
Though the 26 year-old is nearing full fitness after struggles with knee, calf and thumb complaints, Ulster’s opener against Glasgow on August 31 would appear to come slightly too soon.
Even so, speaking yesterday at the launch of his side’s new kit at Ravenhill, Ferris seemed hopeful of returning to the fold at the start of September.
“I'm not sure if I'll make the first game but I should be available for the second or third matches of the new season," he said.
“All my injuries are very good. I have a few aches and pains – all the niggles that disappear when you're on holiday come back again.
“My calf is not a problem, though. I rehabbed that after my two weeks off. I got my thumb operated on as well, so that hopefully won't give me any hassle this season.
“I haven't squatted in nearly 18 months because of my knees but I've been back squatting in the last few weeks and I'm feeling strong and I'm getting back to where I used to be."
Ferris also outlined some encouraging first impressions of new Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, who has promised a clean slate on the selection front.
"Mark doesn't care if you're a (British & Irish) Lion or an Academy player," he added. "If you play well and put your hand up for selection, he's going to pick you.
“It's all about enthusiasm in training. He laid down a marker and said guys will get an opportunity to play if they're training well so all the guys are tuned in."