belfasttelegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Ferris has good reason to have a smile on his face

With Leinster scalped less then a week ago and Munster next on the cards, Ulster are out to upset the status quo.

In recent years, the Dublin and Limerick-based provinces have been the power brokers in Irish rugby but something is stirring in Belfast. The installation of one of their own — Brian McLaughlin — as head coach combined with David Humphreys' role upstairs has brought out the best in an Ulster team who are playing with a verve not seen in those parts for some time now.

The rise of Stephen Ferris has mirrored that of his province. An injury to Denis Leamy gave the flanker his chance in last year's autumn series and by the time Ian McGeechan named his Lions squad in April of this year, he was a virtual certainty for the number six Test shirt before injury wrecked his tour.

Similarly, Ulster have turned themselves from also-rans to table-toppers. After six Magners league games this season they already have four wins under their belt, just three short of their total from last year.

“It's good now,” Ferris agreed. “There's a lot of confidence. Everybody's running about with smiles on their faces and I think that's very important. (There's) new coaching staff in but you can't take anything away from the players, they've worked really hard in the off-season.”

With Munster struggling for the form that saw them win games willy-nilly for most of this decade, Ulster head to Thomond Park looking for their fourth successive Magners League win over the southern province as well as back-to-back victories at the Limerick venue.

“I don't think it's ever a great time to play Munster,” Ferris said. “Every time we've played them it's been a fight, it really is tough work. They're a tremendous outfit. They haven't won two Heineken Cups in the last few years for no reason.

“They're full of world-class players and they had a top-class signing in the summer (in Jean de Villiers). They'll be a tough team to beat, especially at home, but we did it last year so we'll just have to do it again this year.”

Forwards coach Jeremy Davidson has made no secret of his desire to restore Ravenhill to the 'fortress' status it once enjoyed. In a bid to restore pride in the jersey, the foreign brigade at the province were given a crash course in the history of the club and the benefits are tangible as they have won four of their five home games this season.

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