Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Heineken Cup: Knee jerk reaction a pain for Ferris

Stephen Ferris knows all about taking hard knocks

Seems like every time we bump into Stephen Ferris these days he's walking wounded.

“Everyone talks about me getting injured more than other people,” he sighs.

Injuries? They're becoming a bit of a pain in the backside. Literally.

Last month, this awesome collection of physiological destruction was yet again sidelined from his daily duties as a wrecking ball thanks to a — wait for it — buttock injury. It was yet another in a worryingly lengthy sequence of bum notes.

Ferris has already reached rock bottom in the injury stakes, of course, tearing the medial ligament in his right knee during a training session before the last Lions tour.

Such a grim irony, then, that his latest injury should occur while he was literally doing nothing.

As Ulster pushed over a scrum beyond the Aironi try-line to claim a bonus point and their Heineken Cup quarter-final berth, Ferris was applauding his front-five who had forced their buckling opponents into the concession of a penalty try.

Suddenly, from left-field, a grizzled Italian prop was sent whirring into Ferris' left knee. If one should seem thankful that it is not the same knee damaged in 2009, think again. His left knee has been equally scarred down the years and hence, like Kobe Bryant, he has virtually no cartilage left there following two 2007 operations.

“I knew straight away. I went ‘oh, no, I've done the same knee again'. I was worried at the time, but 48 hours later, I'm feeling a bit of improvement so that's always a good sign,” he said.

“I wasn't braced, my knee jarred and I've no cartilage there either, so it was basically bone on bone. Hopefully it will be fine. It's all about having the injuries and being able to come back from them.

“I'll get a bit of physio in the Ireland camp this week which will help me along.”

He can't escape the incongruity that having berated himself so often over-stretching himself — two of his serious injuries have occurred in training sessions — he should be floored in such a fashion.

“It was unbelievable the way that it happened. It was our fourth try, so as soon as we scored I was coming off anyway. I was like 'ah, no'. It's one of those things, Chris Henry was coming on anyway,” he said.

“I know my knee now, I know my body. I know I haven't done anything majorly wrong, there's no cartilage left there anyway which might cut my career short a few years. It is difficult dealing with it, but hopefully I'll get positive results.”

Still, regardless of his own painful inconvenience, nothing could overshadow Ulster's uncontained joy after confirming their first successful Heineken Cup qualification campaign since their 1999 success.

“It was a huge day for Ulster rugby,” he affirms. “A day that everybody enjoyed. We came straight home after the game and now all the guys are excited about the draw because we have the carrot of a home semi-final if we can beat Northampton. It's massive for Ulster rugby and I think it's something we deserved really.”

After the perennial chore of wishing Leinster and Munster rivals well at this time of the year, for once Ferris was a recipient of good wishes including, ironically, his former club colleague Tommy Bowe, a victim of the Ospreys' bird-brained exit.

“Yes he did shake my hand. The first thing he said to me was congratulations. Ulster won five of their six games and we definitely deserved to get through.

“It would be a boost for us to go to Milton Keynes. I watched their home game against Edinburgh, they weren't their normal selves. If we could get them on a day like that. It would definitely suit us being in a different stadium.

“At the quarter-final stage, it doesn't really matter. It's a cup competition and whoever does better will win. There's serious confidence in Ulster at the minute, we're playing good stuff.”

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