Botha, Ferris' timely return boosts Ulster cause for key Biarritz clash
ULSTER have been handed a massive boost with the news that international pair BJ Botha and Stephen Ferris are set to be available for Sunday's crucial Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash away to Biarritz.
The pair sustained injuries in the Magners League draw with Connacht last month and Springbok prop Botha was almost fit to face Aironi last Friday night but suffered a late setback.
Ireland flanker Ferris was given an extra week to recover from his shoulder injury and the pair are expected to be part of Brian McLaughlin's match squad when it is named tomorrow.
Ulster picked up a bonus point in their 30-6 win over Aironi, while Biarritz edged out Bath 12-11 at the Rec over the weekend. Last year's beaten finalists are in a strong position in the pool after that win, but Ulster head coach McLaughlin believes his side can travel to France with confidence.
"Biarritz are last year's runners-up, they're a smashing side and we're under no illusions," said McLaughlin.
"Aironi are a very tough, physical pack and things will be no different in Biarritz. We have to make sure we deal with that and match their physicality.
"They will be a different proposition on their own patch, but we're going to go there with a lot of confidence.
"If we can make sure we take our opportunities when they arise, well, who knows?"
Elsewhere, Connacht coach Eric Elwood believes his side can still salvage their European season despite the shock defeat to Italian minnows Cavalieri Prato on Saturday.
Elwood, who was livid after a mistake-ridden performance saw his side caught at the death by the Italian part-timers, believes Connacht need to win on Friday evening when they host Bayonne in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The French outfit are best known in these parts for almost ruling Brian O'Driscoll out of the ill-fated 2007 World Cup campaign after the Ireland captain was punched during a warm-up game, but they overcame Harlequins last weekend to take control of the pool.
"It has made qualification harder but we still have a good chance. We have had a good debrief, we need to put it behind us and look forward to meeting Bayonne," said Elwood.
"We have to move forward in a positive frame of mind. We need to respond to what has happened and we get that chance next Friday."