Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Heineken Cup: Stephen Ferris is world’s top no.6, says Ulster skipper

Ulster captain Johann Muller believes Stephen Ferris has now developed into the world’s best blindside flanker.

And today at Stade Marcel Michelin (3.40) — where Ulster face French giants ASM Clermont Auvergne — Ferris gets a chance to justify his skipper’s compliment when he goes tete-a-tete with Alexandre Lapandry, the man who got the vote ahead of him in Planet Rugby’s Heineken Cup Team of Round 5. The fact that Ferris’s Ulster back row colleagues Chris Henry and Pedrie Wannenburg were included in that fictitious line-up while he was omitted will have fired up the man former Irish lock Neil Francis has dubbed ‘Ireland’s fabulous wrecking ball’.

In keeping with Muller’s tribute to the flanker’s maturity, Ferris’s priority is on beating opponents who, remarkably, last tasted home defeat in October 2008 when Sale Sharks were 32-15 winners in the Heineken Cup. That’s a run of 38 games.

“We just need to concentrate on ourselves,” is Ferris’s response to questions on how the hosts’ phenomenal run at Stade Marcel Michelin might be brought to an end.

“Putting them under a bit of pressure and building a lead like we did against Leicester,” is the Magheraberry man’s format for causing the major giant-killing act Ulster need if they are to top Pool 4. When we got 14 points up we didn’t go for another try. We kept kicking three points and building a lead.

“If you get three, six points ahead of Clermont they might start to throw it about a bit.

“But you need a bit of luck in big games like this.

“When you’re playing well everything does seem to go your way.”