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Stephen Ferris believes Schmidt will mix it up

By Jonathan Bradley

Stephen Ferris says it will be crucial that Joe Schmidt uses as much of his 31-man squad as possible over the World Cup's first two games if he is to avoid a disaster like Ireland's 2007 tournament.

The head coach has named what is essentially a first-choice side for this afternoon's opener against Canada (2.30pm) at the Millennium Stadium but changes are expected ahead of the meeting with Romania next Sunday.

Only 22 at the time, Ferris travelled to his first World Cup in France eight years ago but, as Ireland toiled against Namibia and Georgia, then coach Eddie O'Sullivan resisted the temptation to rotate his front-liners and the Ulster back-rower remained unused throughout the tournament.

"We almost found it funny at the time, the Bordeaux four we called ourselves," he said.

"It just creates a bit of an atmosphere when you have seven or eight players who know that they don't have a chance.

"There were other players too, Paddy Wallace I think only got five minutes, but that was Eddie's choice. He was a good guy, I just don't think preparation for the big games was good enough.

"With Romania and Canada in the first two games, I'm sure we'll see a lot of players used. Joe will be clever."

Ferris' experience four years later could hardly have been more different.

In New Zealand, he was a star for an Ireland team that beat Australia for their greatest victory at the competition.

While they succumbed to Ireland's quarter-final curse - losing to Wales - the 30-year-old is envious of those about to start a competition he surely would have been a part of if not for the ankle injury that ended his career last summer.

"It's an experience I'd have loved to repeat," he admitted. "That 2011 tournament was amazing craic. It was one of the best times of our lives.

"Losing to Wales, after how we'd shown up against Australia and all the fans who came to support us, is one of the biggest regrets of my career."

That tournament, along with the rest of Ferris' Ulster, Ireland and Lions career, are recounted in his new autobiography, which hits the shelves next week.

From nearly giving up the game as a teen to dealing with the injury that saw him hang up his boots, Ferris felt it was important to be candid.

"I don't see the point of writing a book if it wasn't going to be 100 per cent honest. That's the way I've always been," said Ferris.

"As soon as I retired people started to talk about getting me to write. I wanted to do it, I don't think there has been a successful one from Northern Ireland since Joey Dunlop's, apart from Keith Gillespie, but it wasn't until I got together with my ghostwriter Pat McCarry that things felt right.

"I thought it would be easy, but it was hard work. It was difficult but I'm pleased with it."

Now a television pundit for the BBC, and in demand during the World Cup where he will act as a brand ambassador for Heineken among other commercial commitments, it seems that for Ferris the next chapter is just beginning.

Stephen Ferris will be at the Europa Hotel in conversation with Stephen Watson on Tuesday night. Tickets are £30, including a signed copy of the book, and are available from Stephen Ferris: Man and Ball will be released on September 24.

Belfast Telegraph


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