Ireland back rower Stephen Ferris, who played during the recent summer tour, has signed a new three-year contract with Ulster Rugby, with the new deal keeping him at Ravenhill until 2011.
Ferris won his fifth Test cap for Ireland as a replacement in the recent defeat to Australia in Melbourne. He won his first international cap starting against the Pacific Islanders in November 2006.
A current member of the IRFU High Performance Select Group, Ferris played rugby initially at Friends School Lisburn, before joining up with the Portadown Youth team and making his way to the Ulster Rugby Academy through the Ulster Youth side.
He then progressed to a development contract at the start of the 2005/06 season and has not looked back since being promoted to a full contract ahead of the 2006/07 campaign.
Commenting on his new deal with the province, Ferris said: “I’m pleased to commit the next three years of my life to playing for Ulster. It means everything to me to don that white shirt and it’s a real honour to be part of the team.
“I’m only 22 and hope to play for Ulster for a long time to come. I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.
“There is such a fantastic group of lads in the squad and now that it is quite a young squad, we are going to build up a winning team together.”
He added: “Matt Williams has made great changes since taking over and his style of coaching suits me, he makes me want to push myself harder and harder to play well and I know I’ll work hard for him.
“I also have to say that David Humphreys being involved in the management was a big sway for me. David has been a major influence on me in my years at Ulster and talking to him really helped confirm my decision.
“I like the way the team management is going and I am glad that David is involved. Of course the atmosphere at Ravenhill is unbeatable. In my opinion there’s no better place to play European rugby so it’s great that it’s my home ground for a long time to come.”
Ulster Rugby CEO Michael Reid was delighted to secure the services of Ferris for another three years.
Reid admitted: “It’s fantastic to see a guy of Stephen’s calibre stay at Ravenhill. Stephen, who had a non-traditional start to his Ulster career as one of the first players to come through the Ulster Youth route, has proven himself to be a top Ulster player.
“With the skills and abilities that Stephen has, I am sure we will see play as a top international very soon.
“Having a difficult season last year and losing a number of players, it is great news to have a player of Stephen’s quality signed to the Ulster squad for the next three years. He will be a real asset to the team.”
Ferris was a member of the Ireland Under-21 squad that participated in the World Cup in Argentina in 2005 and made the breakthrough into the senior set-up the following year when he debuted against the Pacific Islanders in the last match at the old Lansdowne Road.
He was later selected for Ireland for the Argentina tour in June of last year and travelled to France as part of the Ireland World Cup squad.
The Maghaberry man was a late call-up for the 2008 summer tour to New Zealand and Australia, having originally been named in the Ireland ‘A’ Churchill Cup squad.