As Stephen Ferris today waited nervously to discover whether he will make the Ireland line-up to face New Zealand on Saturday, he received a huge boost in the form of ringing praise from Paul O’Connell.
O’Connell, who admitted he was desperate to break Ireland’s duck against the mighty All Blacks, believes Ferris’ line-out ability at the tail has brought a new option to the Irish pack.
Ulster star Ferris (pictured) was named man of the match for his all-action display in the 55-0 victory over Canada at Thomond Park at the weekend but faces stiff competition from experienced Munster flanker Alan Quinlan for the blindside slot for Saturday’s showdown at Croke Park.
O’Connell, however, has been impressed by the Ulsterman, insisting that despite his massive frame he has proved himself a real line-out option.
“He isn’t heavy at all,” said O’Connell.
“Like Wally (David Wallace), he has a great spring and he’s easy to lift. I think in Ulster with (Justin) Harrison, they didn’t use their back row as much in the line-out so he just needed the practice and he has been practising a lot.
“He’s very easy to lift and he has a good shape in the air. He was good.”
As for the task awaiting Ireland on Saturday, O’Connell, who has played the All Blacks seven times and lost each time despite coming close in 2002 and 2006, said the key was a shift in mindset.
“Whenever we’ve played against the All Blacks with the Irish team we’ve always done okay against them; we’ve always competed very well,” he said.
“We just need to get that little bit of something to get us over the line.
“The reason they have such a great record is that they're such a great side, they’ve great tradition and a great attitude to winning.”