Six Nations: Ferris has faith that Ireland will bounce back
Stephen Ferris doesn’t need to be reminded that Ireland did not play well in Paris.
TEPHEN SAYS PARIS LOSS WAS SMALL BLIP (main
picture) and is now ready to take on Nick Easter (top), and James Haskell (above)
While the two-week old superficial physical wounds of a 33-10 mauling by the French may have healed, the memory of what happened remains fresh and raw.
It forms a psychological barrier through which he and his Irish colleagues must crash tomorrow at Twickenham if they are to have any chance of retaining the RBS 6 Nations Championship they won last season by beating all before them.
When it comes to climbing back up following a knockdown punch, Ulsterman Ferris has more experience than those who ply their trades with Leinster and Munster.
He is determined to convert the experience of reversals in the white of his province into something positive in the green of Ireland, starting this weekend.
“I’m fortunate enough not to have lost too many in the past 18 months,” he reminds you, hastening to point out that this is a reference to events at international level.
Life as an Ulster player has not always been as enjoyable and successful, however. But he believes that as a result of some of what he has come through he knows how to handle adversity. That may well be a plus.
“With my club there has been a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of years and I feel I have dealt with that really well. So a small blip like Paris should be fine for me,” he reasoned.
Irish followers will hope he is right in his ‘small blip’ assessment of February 13, 2010 and that it proves to have been nothing more than a one-off down day.
He continued: “After Mark McCall left, Matt Williams came in and for a while everything seemed to be going really well.
“But then we had a couple of defeats and our confidence was really low. We’d players in and out; it was a very difficult time.
“I’m just glad now that things are on the straight and narrow. It’s so much more enjoyable as well.”
Reflecting on what went wrong at Stade de France the Ulster blindside said: “We did have a few opportunities in the first half but we didn’t take them.
“In international rugby the margins between winning and losing are sometimes very small. You have to take your chances and we didn’t do that.
“We have to hold our hands up and say that France played really well. We were well beaten in the end. On the day they were on fire.”
He points to his own role — and he was one of Ireland’s better players against France, remember — by saying: “It’s not that I wasn’t in the game, but we were on the back foot.
“Usually when we tackle we stick and slow down the ball. But every time we seemed to hit somebody they got an offload in and there was another line break so we were back-pedalling again. It was a very, very difficult day at the office.”
By his own reckoning he made six or seven tackles. On a good day his tally is 20-plus.
Tellingly, he does not fear that Ireland are in any danger of carrying the baggage of Paris onto the Twickenham pitch. He believes there is sufficient know-how and character in the side to come back strongly and positively following their first reversal in 13 outings.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in our squad, guys who have lost games in the past.”
His analysis of the English back row is that “they’re all fine players, no doubt about that”.
He knows them pretty well.
“I’ve played against Haskell (James) a couple of times this year with Stade Francais and I played against Nick Easter with Harlequins last year.
“They’re very good ball carriers. They get around the park really well.
“Nick Easter is a very good player and a great line-out option as well.
“There’s no doubt that they’re a very strong back row, but in saying that if we can perform as we have done in the past in our own back row there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
“You don’t become a bad side overnight and the way things have been going for us in the past 18 months lets you know what we can do.”
His optimism will hearten those from these shores as they journey forth for south-west London.