Ulster back rower Stephen Ferris has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with the flanker facing into three months of rehabilitation after undergoing surgery yesterday.
The setback means Ulster will have to navigate the final stages of the Rabo PRO12 and Heineken Cup without one of their most influential performers and also effectively rules Ferris out of the Lions tour of Australia this summer.
Ferris was reviewed last week as part of his ongoing rehabilitation from an ankle injury that he sustained in November.
At that review, it was discovered that although he had made excellent progress, some minor issues still remained. Those issues included function at the ankle continuing to cause pain.
Having considered all specialist medical opinions given, the flanker underwent successful ankle surgery in Belfast yesterday, during which fragments of bone were removed.
Ferris will be out of rugby for a further three months but following this period is expected to make a full and complete return to the game.