Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris is confident that successful ankle surgery might have saved his season.
After going under the knife last night, Ferris tweeted: "Thanks for all the MSG and tweets that I have received, it's been overwhelming. Operation went well and I'm on the road to recovery."
The Ireland star has been dogged by injuries in recent seasons, but after overcoming chronic knee issues, a tendon problem has threatened his participation in Ireland's Six Nations campaign, as well as Ulster's twin title assault.
An Ulster statement was coy on the potential timeframe for recovery, while earlier, the player himself had ominously tweeted, "And so another journey begins ... "
The Ulster statement said: "Ulster back-row forward, Stephen Ferris today underwent surgery to repair a tendon injury which occurred as a consequence of the ankle damage he sustained in the RaboDirect Pro12 game against Edinburgh on November 2 last.
"Stephen will be reviewed in the coming weeks to establish an accurate time period for recovery and to assess when he will fit to return to play."
Ferris was in line to start against South Africa on the 2009 tour, but was ruled out after sustaining a training ground injury.
The flanker has not played for Ireland since the Six Nations defeat to England in Twickenham last March.