Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Brian O'Driscoll will turn in a special performance against Wales: Stephen Ferris

Ireland and Ulster star Stephen Ferris with Wallace captain Callum Irvine and Friends  skipper Jason Hassard with the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies at Lisburn Rugby Club yesterday
Ireland and Ulster star Stephen Ferris with Wallace captain Callum Irvine and Friends skipper Jason Hassard with the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies at Lisburn Rugby Club yesterday

Stephen Ferris believes his Ireland teammate Brian O'Driscoll can use his Lions heartbreak as motivation for Saturday's massive Six Nations clash with Wales.

O'Driscoll was sensationally axed by head coach Warren Gatland (below) – now back in charge of Wales – for the series-clinching third Test against Australia last summer and that decision has once again been brought under the spotlight in the build-up to the second round of Six Nations games.

And on the acrimonious reunion between Ireland's most-capped player and the Kiwi coach, Ferris – who had his own Lions Test dreams crushed when injury ended his 2009 tour of South Africa – said: "It will be talked about between a few players behind closed doors.

"As he (O'Driscoll) said, Gatland is not on his Christmas card list and I'm sure Drico will have something in there that could give him that extra 10 per cent," said the injured Ulster star.

"Gatland has a history of winding up the opposition and that kind of carry on in the media but we've seen these tactics so many times now.

"Whether it's Brian or Joe (Schmidt, Ireland coach) or Paul (O'Connell, Ireland' captain), they won't let the build up get to the players and all that won't have too much of an effect."

Of more concern to the big flanker, however, is the combination of Gatland's renowned tactical nous and the formidable array of talent at his disposal.

The 28-year-old added: "For me, Warren Gatland is one of the best coaches around. He's tried and tested at the highest level and he'll have them coming into this one fully-loaded."

This, according to Ferris, is all the more reason for Ireland to respond with a big performance of their own.

"I think before the Scotland game we had won one of our last five at home, so it's two out of six now.

"We need to be getting to a point where we are doing much better at home and that starts with games like this. Against a really good side like this, one tipped to win the championship, a win would be huge.

"It's really important to put in a good performance ahead of another big game against a good England side.

"When it comes to playing for Ireland, there is no better feeling than beating the Welsh or beating England in their own backyard."

The Portadown man's voice brimmed with enthusiasm as he continued: "There is nothing like the Six Nations. With the countries so close together, every match is so tense.

"It's not hatred but you just want to get one over on your rivals.

"The games at this time are insane – everything just goes up a level."

Unfortunately Ferris will once again play no part in this year's edition as the ankle injury picked up in a PRO12 game against Edinburgh back in November of 2012 continues to prevent him from adding to his haul of 35 international caps.

He does remain very much in the thoughts of his international colleagues however, as exemplified by a weekend phone message from skipper O'Connell, who also missed the championship-opening 28-6 win over Scotland at the Aviva.

Ferris revealed: "Paul O'Connell texted me two minutes before kick-off saying that he was sat there feeling sorry for himself that he couldn't play and then he thought of me."

Mercifully, the explosive blindside has stepped up his rehabilitation in recent weeks and is inching ever closer to a return to the field of play.

"I'm back running on the pitch now but it's been so long since I've actually ran, it's a lot of work.

"We haven't put a timetable on the recovery the whole way through and that's still the case but after another four or five weeks on the pitch doing some running and we should have a much better idea of when I'll be able to get back out there," commented Ferris.

Fans of Ulster and Ireland – and most importantly the man himself – will be hoping that day comes sooner rather than later.

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