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Irish won't lose focus over Jackson allegations, insists Ferris

By Ciaran Gallagher

Published 03/11/2016

To the point: Stephen Ferris
To the point: Stephen Ferris

Ulster hero Stephen Ferris wants to see his former team-mate Paddy Jackson back on the pitch as soon as possible.

The Ireland out-half did not travel with the national squad to Chicago for Saturday's clash with New Zealand due to what were described as "personal reasons", with it later emerging that he and team-mate Stuart Olding had been questioned by the PSNI in relation to alleged sexual offences back in June. He will not play for his province against Edinburgh tomorrow either, with Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss explaining the decision was down to IRFU game management.

Ferris, who represented Ulster with great distinction from 2005 until his injury-enforced retirement in 2014, is hoping Jackson can use rugby as a "distraction" during the legal process.

"I think Les Kiss has alluded to it in his interviews, that they have released a statement and they are not going to comment any further on it," he said. "For me, I'm not involved in Ulster but PJ is a friend of mine.

"I played with him for a number of years so to see his name in the headlines, it affected me as well.

"I'm not going to comment on anything he may have done in the past and I just hope he can use rugby as a distraction and hopefully get back into the team within the next couple of weeks and play like I know he can.

"That first game back (this season), where he came back into the fold, he was just running about organising things. The whole team seemed to be bouncing off him and he got a man of the match performance and we all know that's Paddy Jackson.

"He just needs to bring it week in, week out and when he does that there is no doubt he will be an international player week in, week out as well."

Ferris has insisted that Ireland will not be distracted by Jackson's absence from the international set-up ahead of Saturday's Test with the All Blacks in Chicago.

"For me, if I was in the Ireland team across there, you'd be fully focused on the match," he said.

"I'd say the issue has been fully addressed by Joe (Schmidt), the management over there and there has been a line drawn under it and they just have to focus.

"Yes, they are friendly with Paddy and that's it, but I'd be focused on the game solely. That's me being maybe a little bit selfish, but that's professional rugby and if one or two lads go out and don't perform against New Zealand, they won't get picked against Canada the following week.

"You've got to be selfish and think about the here and now."

Looking ahead to Saturday's Test, 31-year-old Ferris, who suffered defeats against the All Blacks in 2008 and 2010, admitted that he only expects there to be one winner this weekend.

Steve Hansen's side are on a record-breaking 18-Test winning streak and Ferris allowed his head to overrule his heart.

"We're Irish, we always have a chance," said Ferris, speaking in promotion of AIG's 'Rugby Weekend' event in Chicago. "But what is it, 18 (wins) on the bounce? Do I think it's going to be 19? Yes, but I think they can put in a performance and build on it.

"But you never know, if they can get 10 points ahead, will New Zealand come back? They probably will, but every opportunity has to be taken."

Belfast Telegraph

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