Ferris urges IRFU to let Ulster sign replacement for injured Marcell Coetzee
Stephen Ferris has urged the IRFU to allow Ulster to sign a short-term replacement for the injured Marcell Coetzee.
The South African back-row was due to arrive in Ireland this summer on a three-year deal but he is facing up to nine months out with a knee injury that he picked up while playing for the Sharks earlier this month.
Ulster are understood to be seeking permission from the IRFU to sign another player on a short-term contract but any such move would have to be approved by the union’s performance director David Nucifora, who may not be open to the idea.
Ferris believes that Ulster are in desperate need of a powerful ball carrying back-row if they are to end their 10-year wait for a trophy.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that Ulster are in talks with the IRFU at the minute to see if they could bring somebody in for cover,” said Ferris. “I think they have to because there isn’t really anyone coming through in the young guys in the back-row who’s of the same kind of standard as Marcel Coetzee. It’s as simple as that. For me, you have to get your chequebook out and sign somebody for a year.”
Ferris, who was speaking at the launch of Heineken's 'Rugby Club' where rugby meets the world, added: "Coetzee is going to be out for at least six months. He's going to miss the pool stages of the European Cup, which are vital as we all know.
"Would I be happy with Chris Henry, Robbie Diack and Roger Wilson playing in the back-row for Ulster next season going into the first European Cup game? Definitely not.
"I would be a lot happier if Iain Henderson and Coetzee were playing in the back-row with Chris Henry or whatever.
"It's something that has to be sorted out and hopefully the IRFU can sort something out with Ulster and we can sign somebody for six months or a year."
A re-occurring ankle injury forced Ferris into retirement two years ago and Ulster have lacked someone of his power since.
The 30-year old believes that his former side are far too reliant on Henderson and with Nick Williams joining Cardiff Blues next season, Ulster will lose another ball carrier.
"I think one thing that really concerns me is that in our pack, we just don't have many ball carriers at all," Ferris said.
"Roger Wilson had his best for a couple of years at Northampton and Chris Henry isn't really a ball carrying seven. You've just Iain Henderson and that's really it.
"If I was a Leinster player, I would really think that we can take them up front. It's a massive concern that we don't have the carriers that Leinster do.
"I'm a fan now so for me it's concerning to read an Ulster teamsheet with hardly any ball carriers. "
Ulster must win against Leinster on Saturday if they are to have any hope of sealing a home semi-final but Ferris isn't confident of them ending their long trophy drought.
"Ulster have been the biggest under-achievers since 2006 when we won the Celtic League away to the Ospreys," he said.
"Do I think we have it this year? I don't think so. I think if we have our best side out on the bench, we'll be there or thereabouts but I just don't feel that we have enough ball carriers in our pack to give us the front foot ball."
Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton believes that a successful Guinness Pro12 run-in can be the catalyst for a new generation of Leinster players returning to the top of European rugby under Leo Cullen.
This season's Champions Cup campaign was a disaster for the three-times champions who lost five of their six pool games. However, Cullen has been able to blood a new batch of young players over the course of the campaign and his side lead the league table with two games to go.
Sexton believes that winning the 2008 Celtic League was a key step along the way to winning their 2009, 2011 and 2012 European titles and reckons claiming the title for the third time in four years would be a big step forward.
"That 2008 season, winning that Magner's League was a huge thing," he said.
"It showed the players that they weren't too far away and the following season, where we made our breakthrough, we weren't playing a great rugby, but you get over the line and then we started to keep our success with a better style of rugby.
"When we were (the top team in Europe) we were getting a lot of praise for being the best attacking team, playing the best rugby.
"We also had a little bit of luck. We didn't have many bad injuries."