Monday, May 18. A date that has been etched in Stephen Ferris’ mind for some time as he links up with the 2009 British & Irish Lions squad for the first time. IrishRugby.ie caught up with the Ulster and Ireland flanker before he travelled over to Surrey for the pre-tour training camp.
IrishRugby.ie: Congratulations on your Lions call-up Stephen and best wishes for the upcoming tour. Obviously your role in Ireland’s Grand Slam success played a big part in your selection, but how do you feel the season’s gone for you so far?
Stephen Ferris: Yeah, the season’s gone pretty well. It was pretty tough with Ulster – we were up and down a bit – but coming together with Ireland was good and obviously it was a great win for us in the Six Nations and the Grand Slam.
It’s just got even better with the call-up to the Lions, which is amazing. I’m just looking forward to that now.
IR: You’ve made great strides with your game, getting that run of games in the Ireland side. Do you feel you can reach higher standards?
SF: I think my game can improve a lot more. There’s a lot more in the tank and hopefully I’ll bring that out over the next season or two.
I’m still only 23 and hopefully I’ll gain a lot of experience over in South Africa and bring that into next season.
IR: Unfortunately Ulster didn’t have the best of campaigns, failing to qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and finishing eighth in the Magners League. Do you think there will be better days ahead and particularly next season?
SF: Jeez, it’s weird. We win away against Munster and then lose to a poor Edinburgh side the next week. And then win away to Glasgow and then lose at home the next week.
It’s been pretty up and down. We just need to find a bit of consistency next year and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.
Matt Williams has instilled a good team ethic in Ulster and hopefully we can bring a few close results back home next year and get a few more points.
IR: With your Ulster and Ireland campaigns over now, how are preparations for the Lions tour? It’s really full steam ahead now, isn’t it?
SF: Yeah, the hard work has started the last few weeks. I’ve been doing a bit of altitude training for the Lions.
It’s been pretty tough going. JD (Jonny Davis, the Ulster fitness coach) has been pushing me hard.
It’s about getting myself ready and raring to go come Monday.
IR: I’m sure an exciting seven weeks lie ahead, between the build-up and the actual matches. Great recognition for you to be in the squad but what are your thoughts on the battle to make the Test team?
SF: I’m going to fight so hard to get a Test place.
I just gave myself an opportunity every time I played for Ireland to get picked for the next game. And that’s what I’m going to try and do if I get to pull on a Lions Test shirt.
If it happens, fantastic. I’ll relish every minute of it.