Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Ferris gets a start as Mark seeks power play with thoughts turning to Europe

By Niall Crozier

It was the news every Ulster supporter had waited 16 months to hear – Stephen Ferris to start in a white shirt.

It is the first time since November 2012 that he has started a match and now, as then, it is Edinburgh who provide the opposition.

The fact that the 28-year-old British and Irish Lions flanker is in the starting 15 confirms that he came through last weekend's final-quarter work-out against the Scarlets with no ill-effects following that lengthy, career-threatening lay-off. Ferris's inclusion is one of half a dozen changes to the side that beat Scarlets 26-13 a week ago, with his fellow-internationals Iain Henderson and Luke Marshall also returning for Ulster duty.

Henderson, who rejoined the squad on Tuesday following Ireland's Six Nations title-clinching victory over France in Paris, where he was a replacement, packs down alongside captain Johann Muller in the second row.

Marshall, now recovered from his fourth concussion in 12 months, once again teams up alongside Darren Cave in midfield where they wear 12 and 13 respectively.

Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe are selected at full-back and right-wing, with Craig Gilroy completing the back three. He starts on the left wing where Rory Scholes played a week ago.

With Ruan Pienaar missing with a shoulder injury, the inclusion of Michael Heaney rather than Paul Marshall at scrum-half has raised a few eyebrows.

If, as defence coach Jonny Bell suggested would be the case, Pienaar is fit to face Saracens in the eagerly-awaited Heineken Cup quarter-final a fortnight tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see whether it's Marshall or Heaney who is chosen to provide cover for the Springbok off the bench.

Heaney's partner tonight at Murrayfield is Paddy Jackson who, following his two-try heroics against Scarlets last Friday night, flew to Paris the following day to watch Ireland beat France and join in the celebrations afterwards.

Like Henderson, he had Monday off before returning to the Ulster fold to begin preparations for tonight's showdown.

With Callum Black injured (ankle), Tom Court – scorer of Ulster's bonus point-securing fourth try a week ago – is restored to the loose-head side of the front row where he joins Rob Herring and John Afoa. This is Court's 22nd outing of the season at number one.

Ferris's start at six sees Roger Wilson revert to his preferred No 8 role, with Sean Doyle continuing on the openside.

In addition to the excellent news that Ferris is good to go, Ulster have received another significant boost ahead of next month's Heineken Cup shoot-out.

Dan Tuohy, the lock who broke his arm while playing for Ireland against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on February 8 is set to return a la Bowe against the Dragons on February 28 and Ferris against Scarlets on March 14.

Bowe got 40 minutes in his first game back, while Ferris got 20 given that he had been out for such a long time. And with that all-important European Cup game with Saracens fast approaching, Tuohy has made it back ahead of schedule which means he will get ample game time ahead of April 5.

In the midst of the return of so many international players, 23-year-old Andrew Warwick will know he is going to be surrounded by quality if he is called upon to make his senior debut.

The Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy loose-head prop has been named as Court's understudy.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph