Backrow forward Stephen Ferris is set to undergo further surgery on a right ankle injury which will effectively rule him out for the rest of the season.
It is the latest in a frustrating spell of injuries which has left the Ireland and Ulster blindside loose specialist set to miss out on a potential British Lions tour in the summer and another exciting run with his Province in Europe.
There had been hopes Ferris would be given the all clear to return to action for Ulster next Friday at home against Treviso – and that in turn could have opened further doors for him.
The 27-year-old, whose contract with Ulster is due to expire in June, suffered the ankle injury in the RaboDirect PRO12 game against Edinburgh on November 2. It ruled him out of taking part in the Ireland Guinness November Test series.
Ferris underwent a review on Tuesday, but he did not get the news he expected.
In a statement released yesterday evening by Ulster Rugby, it said that while Ferris had made excellent progress in his recovery “some minor issues remained.”
“As a result, the specialist medical-staff treating Stephen are considering several options to ensure that he makes a full and complete return to play,” it added.
“A decision on a course of action will be made in the coming weeks.”
The News Letter understands Ferris will require a further operation on the ankle.
Ferris was selected for the 2009 Lions squad but, after making a brilliant early impression in South Africa, suffered a knee injury which ended his tour prematurely. He also missed the 2011 Six Nations campaign because of injury.
He played a major role in the latter stages of last season’s Heineken Cup and played in the final when Ulster lost to Leinster at Twickenham. However, injury looks to have ended any opportunity of him repeating that this season with the Province who face Saracens in the quarter-finals on April 6.