Backline duo ruled out, but Ulster remain hopeful on Stephen Ferris return

Ulster's Stephen Ferris
Ulster's Stephen Ferris

Ulster remained guarded on confirming if British Lion backrow forward, Stephen Ferris, would make his long awaited return to action after injury on Friday night against Scarlets in the PRO12.

However, scrumhalf Paul Marshall and centre, Luke Marshall, are both ruled out of the rearranged league match at Ravenhill.

Luke Marshall suffered concussion during the 46-7 win against Dragons two weeks ago and continues to follow the return to play protocols.

Paul Marshall was declared unavailable for selection on Wednesday although he had played in the Ulster Ravens 31-10 loss to Leinster on Monday.

But the main focus still remains on the possibility of Ferris making a return to playing after a 15-month lay-off through injury.

The News Letter revealed last week that Ferris may make his return via the replacements bench for the visit of the Scarlets even though a target of Edinburgh a week later had been set.

Yesterday, Ulster assistant coach, Neil Doak, would only say the medical team were continuing to work with the international blindside.

“Stephen has worked tremendously hard to get to where he is and it is hoped to see him playing soon.”

Ulster fans will be watching their social media feeds intensely on Thursday around noon when the matchday squad is announced to see if Ferris is included.

Nick Williams is now available for selection following the outcome of an internal disciplinary process.

Williams had appeared before a disciplinary panel after it was alleged he went absent without leave ahead of the away PRO12 match against Benetton Treviso.

The outcome of the disciplinary hearing was not disclosed publicly and Ulster would not make any further comment after issuing a two paragraph statement confirming Williams return to training on Tuesday following the disciplinary hearing.

Williams had already been training with his team mates since last Wednesday.

Stuart McCloskey is in line for his first competitive start with the Province having played off the bench in the victory over Dragons.

With Ruan Pienaar due to start at scrumhalf, James McKinney may get an opportunity at flyhalf.

Ulster lie third in the PRO12 table and need to secure another home win if they are to keep the pressure on top two, Leinster and Munster.