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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Back Row Has A Lot More To Give – Ferris

Back Row Has A Lot More To Give – Ferris

Given the high calibre of performance put in by Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip against Italy, most observers would have thought they had played together before on a number of occasions. In fact, last Sunday’s game was only their second start alongside each other in the Irish back row.

David Wallace’s unfortunate knee injury has opened the way for the trio to form a brutishly strong back row unit which is being touted in some circles as the best at this Rugby World Cup.

Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip have all shone on rugby’s biggest stage and Ferris, who uses his power and pace to telling effect, says they are only getting started.

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“Last week was only our second time starting together in the back row. Even last week I thought we played a lot better than we did against Australia, so hopefully we can keep building on that,” he told RTÉ Sport.

“We all feel there’s a lot more in us to give. I think that’s the whole feeling around the team, that even though we’re playing some good stuff we can still lift it another couple of gears.”

Ferris knows only too well what Wallace is going through at the moment. He himself has had an arduous road back from the season-ending knee injury he suffered when playing for Ulster against Aironi last January.

Having to undergo an operation on his left knee and a ‘mentally draining’ recovery period, the Maghaberry man was facing ‘a race against time’ to get back fit for Ireland’s World Cup campaign.

Ferris missed Ulster’s knockout matches in the Heineken Cup and Magners League and had to sit out Ireland’s Six Nations run.

After that, being absent from the biggest tournament of all was never an option. The agony of injurying his other knee during the 2009 Lions tour steeled him for this particular comeback.

Now he is on the cusp of achieving something special with Ireland. The road to the World Cup final begins with slaying the Welsh Dragons in Wellington.

“For me it is one of the biggest games of my career. it’s at the same kind of level as the Grand Slam decider in 2009. Funnily enough that was also against Wales,” remarked Ferris.

“It’s another big test for us this weekend. We’re playing some good stuff and we’re really looking forward to the game.

“Training has been good. On Tuesday we had an indoor session, we just did some lineouts and walked through some plays.

“Wednesday we picked the intensity up, it was a really good session in the wind and rain. It was great to get out there and get a bit of running in the legs. We’ve our final session on Friday.”

The Welsh back row, led ably by captain Sam Warburton, has also been receiving praise in recent weeks. Dragons team-mates Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau complete the trio in what is a pack that Ferris has plenty of respect for.

“The forwards have been doing a good job for Wales, giving them a good platform. It’s the same for us. It’s going to be a massive contest against a really good Welsh back row.

“I didn’t really know much about Faletau, playing for the Dragons and that. He had a tremendous game against South Africa. But we’ve got a strong back row ourselves and hopefully we’ll have a good day.”

Ferris expects ‘a real arm wrestle’ up front where the match could very well be won and lost. This is a World Cup adventure that the 26-year-old does not want to end, and there are thousands of green-clad supporters in Wellington who feel exactly the same.

“We said coming out here that we wanted to make it through to the quarter-finals. Now that we’re here (in the last-eight), everybody wants to stay until the end. There’s a great buzz around the camp, we’re all loving it and nobody wants to go home yet.”

Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.