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Rugby World Cup: Stephen Ferris confident that Ireland stars can produce

Stephen Ferris feels Ireland's World Cup squad will return as heroes should they make it to a first ever World Cup semi-final.

No Irish team has gone beyond the last eight but Ferris, who travelled to the tournament in 2007 before starring four years later in New Zealand, believes even if Joe Schmidt's men don't lift the Webb Ellis trophy, they will certainly make an impact.

"I think they've got a chance. I hope and believe that they are going to get to a semi-final and if those guys do that, they'll come back heroes," he said last night.

"They'll come back heroes, and they'll come back heroes in my eyes as well.

"I know how hard it is to win a quarter-final. We played against Wales (in 2011) and it's all on the day. If you don't pitch up you're gone, no second chance. In knock-out rugby anything can happen.

"Maybe they can go all the way but I personally think we're going to come up a bit short.

"There's six or seven teams that could win it.

"South Africa, New Zealand, they have the strength in depth that other teams don't have.

"Ireland and France are going to be there or thereabouts."

Ferris was speaking at the launch of his new autobiography, Stephen Ferris: Man and Ball, at the Europa Hotel last night.

The event was well attended by friends, family, Ulster legends such as David Irwin, current players like Craig Gilroy and Stuart Olding, as well as hundreds of fans who still hold the retired flanker in high esteem.

Telling the assembled crowd of his World Cup experience four years ago, he recounted a tale of just how close he came to making unwanted headlines.

As it was, the now 30-year-old returned a star with a ferocious tackle on Will Genia in the famous pool victory over Australia providing one of his career's signature images. "When I was playing against Australia in the pool game, it just felt like that tackle against Will Genia was just another tackle," he said.

"Then my mum sent me picture messages through of the next day's papers and it went world wide. It was crazy really.

"Everybody always comes up to me and says 'You played unreal' - I didn't, I just did one good thing and then it went nuts.

"Before the game, when we had a break, I'd been out in Queenstown and the bar man said 'get your top off and I'll get free drink for everyone in here.'

"There were a few flashes but I didn't think anything of it.

"After the Australia game, and after the problems the England team had, the papers had the pictures ready to go for as soon as we supposedly got beat.

"The team manager came up to me and said, 'this would have been mad had it went to press after we lost.' Thank goodness we won, it saved my bacon."

Stephen Ferris's new autobiography is on the shelves tomorrow. The former Ulster, Ireland and Lions flanker will be signing copies at Easons in Lisburn on Saturday, October 10 at 12noon.

Belfast Telegraph