Belfast Telegraph

All out attack is Ulster's last European Champions Cup hope - Stephen Ferris

By Michael Sadlier

Stephen Ferris has backed Ulster to rack up the scores against Oyonnax at the Kingspan Stadium tomorrow as they seek to hunt down a quarter-final place in the European Champions Cup.

"Weather permitting, I firmly believe Ulster can put 60 on this team," Ferris said.

"Even if it's a bit boggy out there I still expect Ulster to get their four tries (for an essential bonus point) though putting up a big scoreline against them is important as well."

Les Kiss's squad need a maximum point win over Oyonnax who are out of the running - while a big score will also be beneficial should it all come down to points differential - and Ulster must also hope that other games spread out over the weekend go their way if they are to claim one of three places open to them in the knockout stages as a best runner-up.

"They've got to go out and just demolish this team and they need to get their five points and then see what happens," added Ulster legend Ferris.

"If I was in that dressing room we'd be saying that we have to put the foot to their throat and that we can get 50 or 60 points," added the former Ireland and Lions player who also stressed the importance of a big crowd roaring Ulster on.

On what is sure to be a dramatic final round of Champions Cup pool games, Ferris is confident that Ulster have what it takes to get the all-important result tomorrow while avoiding any repeat from their trip to Oyonnax, earlier this month, when Rory Best and co. had to battle back to shade the game 24-23.

Ferris feels that Ulster will throw caution to the wind and show their full attacking hand in what is the opening pool game of the weekend which means that Kiss and his squad will have to do an effective enough job first up as they then have to wait and see how the other relevant games pan out.

"Ulster obviously need to score four tries and win the match well to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals," he added.

"There'll probably be no kicks at goal in that opening 10-15 minutes to go 3-0 up and, instead, the tone will have to be set early on. I expect Ulster to play a high tempo game with a real attacking intent," commented an optimistic Ferris.

However, the former powerhouse flanker feels that should Ulster fail to get through then their dire first half display at Oyonnax - when they trailed 23-0 - and failure to score a fourth try in their stirring comeback will prove to be their undoing rather than losing twice to pool toppers and already qualified Saracens.

"We lost a fourth try at Oyonnax and you can't help but wonder if that will come back to haunt us," he said.

Ferris was also full of praise at Best becoming proud Ireland skipper for the forthcoming Six Nations.

"There's no better man for the job," he said.

"I am very proud of his achievements to date and I know he will relish the challenge which lies ahead.

"His 90th cap will be one to remember when he leads the team out against Wales at the Aviva," added Ferris.

He also reckoned that Stuart McCloskey's elevation to the Irish squad should result in the Ulsterman getting a first cap against Wales.

"One position where I think an uncapped player deserves a shot is at inside centre and Stuart McCluskey is now big, strong, skilful and deceptively fast," stated Ferris.

"After beating Brian O'Driscoll's number one pick Garry Ringrose into the squad, I really do expect Stuart to feature."

Stephen Ferris was speaking at his appointment as the new Brand Ambassador at Mervyn Stewart Skoda in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph


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