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Six Nations: Authorities admitted penalty decision was wrong, says Stephen Ferris

By David Kelly

He was supposed to be in the vanguard of a back-row that would wreak World Cup revenge upon the Welsh. Instead, after the most dramatic of denouements, Stephen Ferris stood indicted of costing his side victory.

"Of course I felt blamed," he said, reliving the heartache of that tackle on Ian Evans, when Ferris found himself in the right place at the right time - but doing the wrong thing, according to referee Wayne Barnes' immediate reaction.



"Every fan was sitting there with two or three minutes to go thinking Ireland were going to win. And then I give away a penalty and we lose the game.



"Obviously, a lot of fans out there think Stephen Ferris made the wrong decision and Stephen Ferris has cost us a win at home in the Six Nations. Some other people would think differently but, yeah, there was that feeling."



He could have done without the citing complaint and subsequent hearing.



"With these kind of things, they drag everything out and go through every single angle," he said. "It was on the TV. Wayne Barnes was on the phone at the hearing and he gave his side of the story. He was on loudspeaker.



"I didn't say anything, but we gave our side of the story and at the end of it they were like, 'I'm sorry, the wrong decision probably ended up costing you the game.'"



The published decision hadn't mentioned this fact. Asked had he read the report, Ferris responded: "No, I haven't."



Informed that there was no mention of the referee erring, Ferris added: "No, I wasn't aware of that -- but I wouldn't sit here and tell you lies."



For now, Ferris needs to concentrate on ensuring an Irish back-row begins living up to its exalted reputation.



"There was a lot of chat about our back-row during the World Cup, the best back-row in the world, blah, blah, blah after the Australia game," he said.



"Then we got beaten by Wales and now the Wales back-row is the best back-row in the world, blah, blah, blah.



"It's funny how things swing around. We will be just concentrating on ourselves this weekend."



Paul O'Connell, another of the physical titans whose leadership was widely questioned following the Wales defeat, is similarly forthright in declaring that he will not dramatically alter his captaincy style as Ireland seek to belatedly launch their championship challenge.



"No, not really," he responded. "Obviously, we'd like to finish the game better than we did. I don't think that was down to any one person or any group of people.



"We have just got to continue doing what we're doing with the provinces, continue that leadership that guys have with their provinces and make sure that comes out when we play in a green jersey as well."



Playing for four successive weeks may help this Irish team untie the Gordian knot that sees them perform like world-beaters with their provinces but fail to reach those heights when wearing green.



"It will be physically demanding, of course it will," said Ferris, who confirmed that the most suspect knees in sport since Paul McGrath will be able to last the distance.



"But we played four in a row in the World Cup and a lot of lads would have done it with the provinces.



"We are a very close bunch of lads anyway, but maybe the last couple of weeks will make us even tighter."

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