Ulster have foundations to build towards glory: Stephen Ferris
Ulster hero Stephen Ferris believes continuity is key to bringing silverware back to Kingspan Stadium, admitting the foundations for success have simply not been there in recent years.
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Never afraid to voice his opinion, Ferris will be in the Premier Sports TV commentary box for tonight's Guinness Pro14 opener against Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm).
The former Ireland and Lions star only retired in 2014 and yet the province have had Neil Doak, Les Kiss, Jono Gibbes and now Dan McFarland heading up their coaching ticket in the years since.
A whole host of experienced figures have retired too, most recently Darren Cave and Rory Best, while there has even been change at executive level with CEO Jonny Petrie having replaced Shane Logan last year.
Now, with key figures in situ and a young squad, Ferris believes year two of McFarland's tenure will build upon the promise of the first where they returned to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and semi-finals of the PRO14.
"Since I started in the media side of things, there were a number of other key players that were retiring or moving on," said Ferris.
"That rebuilding process, coaches coming and going so often, it just never felt like there was any stability at all.
"I think last year was the first that it felt that there were foundations in place. That has been reflected in what's happening on the pitch. They saved their best performance for that (Champions Cup) quarter-final (against Leinster) even though they lost.
"Last year it felt there was stability in the organisation. The players, the coaches, the CEO, everything felt finally settled.
"That's a huge positive. It's something I've been very vocal about in the past and it's so important to finally have that."
While the World Cup is ongoing in Japan, Ferris believes Ulster can take advantage by making a positive start to their league campaign, emulating the 2015-16 feat of Connacht who began impressively and carried their momentum all the way through to the title in May.
"If you look at the year that Connacht won the Pro12, they got off to a quick start and it's really important that Ulster capitalise on the games they have at the start of the season because they'll be able to put out a really strong side without too many players away at the World Cup," he said. "They've made some smart signings, Sam Carter has a real pedigree, and his experience will be really important too.
"If they get off to a good start and keep that momentum, there's a chance of putting together a really good season."