Ulster and Ireland back-row forward Stephen Ferris has been ruled out for a further three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury.
Ferris has been on the sidelines since incurring the problem in November and the decision was made for him to have surgery.
He now faces a virtual impossible task to return to competitive action in time to force his way into Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions plans ahead of the summer tour to Australia.
Ferris was also unfortunate with injury on the Lions' 2009 tour of South
Africa after succumbing to a knee injury with a place in the Test side all but assured.
But his Irish region are confident he will make a full recovery once he has completed his rehabilitation.
"Ulster backrow forward, Stephen Ferris, was reviewed last week as part of his ongoing rehabilitation from an ankle injury that he sustained in November," read a statement on the club's official website.
"During 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, Stephen underwent further ankle surgery in Belfast yesterday, during which fragments of bone were removed.
"Stephen will be out of rugby for another three months but following this period is expected to make a full and complete return to the game."