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TV prank moment rugby fans on hunt for room in plush apartment came face-to-face with 'flatmate'... Ireland hero Stephen Ferris

By Sara Neill

Published 19/09/2015

Matthew Grey sits opposite Stephen Ferris in the apartment
Matthew Grey sits opposite Stephen Ferris in the apartment
Matthew and fellow prank victims Simon Fitzgerald and Tony Hutchings with Webb Ellis trophy
Tony with rugby star Stephen

Local rugby fans were stunned when their search for a new pad left them face-to-face with a sporting legend.

With a room in a plush apartment in Belfast city centre seemingly up for grabs, three would-be renters booked a viewing at the Obel Tower.

But with a few quirky requests thrown in, the candidates unwittingly put themselves in the hot seat for a host of Rugby World Cup goodies.

The prank, captured on camera, began with an ad on PropertyNews.com calling for a rugby mad flatmate to share the bills.

Potential renters were shown around the luxury home supplied by Templeton Robinson, where the Rugby World Cup trophy took pride of place in the living room.

And if that was not unusual enough, Ireland international Stephen Ferris turned out to be the mystery housemate.

Potential renter Tony Hutchings (23) thought the chance to see round one of Belfast's most exclusive properties was too good to miss.

He said: "When I saw the Rugby World Cup sitting there, I thought this is definitely not right.

"Stephen met me in the living room and I recognised his face instantly. Once everything got going I thought: 'That's Stephen Ferris!'

"Then everyone piled in and I put two and two together.

"I was all in for renting the apartment, but this is spectacular!"

The Webb Ellis cup can only be touched by the winners of the competition, so when the estate agent asked home-hunting Simon Fitzgerald to take her picture with the trophy, he knew something was amiss. He said: "I was expecting her to knock it over and Stephen Ferris to run in and throw me out the window."

Instead, Simon was surprised by representatives from Heineken, the tournament's official sponsor. The cameras also captured Matthew Grey getting into a push-up competition with the man who's made a career out of keeping fit.

The 27-year-old said: "I started to get suspicious when I had to do a scrum on the living room floor. I didn't expect there to be any physical element.

"I never thought I'd be in a scrum with an Ireland international. I was doing push-ups too. I think I won the push-ups to be fair, but the scrum was 50/50."

The applicants all left with tickets to an Ulster game of their choice and invitations to VIP events throughout the Rugby World Cup.

And while Stephen was not to become their roomie, he was more than happy to help kickstart their World Cup celebrations.

The sportsman said: "You could tell they were thinking: 'What's going on? I'm sitting on a green settee with the Webb Ellis in front of me!' I threw a few questions out to them and they were laughing, thinking it was a mick-take."

Jim Geraghty from Heineken said it leapt at the opportunity to show off the Webb Ellis cup with a stunt that would get people engaged with the event. He added: "Some of the reactions were fantastic.

"Stephen is an Irish rugby legend. He typifies all the traits we want to align with our brand. He was the best in his class, not only for Ulster but also for Ireland."

Jim said there would be a number of events in pubs around Belfast with chances to win world-class experiences, including a trip to the 2015 semi-finals.

This week the Belfast Telegraph gave away five pairs of tickets for tomorrow's Heineken exclusive Ireland vs Canada event in the Albany. Fans can find out more by keeping an eye on www.facebook.com/heineken and @Heineken_IE, or by buying a Heineken in their local outlet.

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