Munster game the target for Ferris
THE DEEP tan shows the summer has been good to him and Stephen Ferris is not only looking in great shape but is also feeling in good condition again.
Since being on the losing side at Twickenham in May’s Heineken Cup final, the Ulster and Ireland flanker has spent the intervening period recovering from a calf injury – which spared him from Ireland’s difficult trip to New Zealand – before then going under the knife to sort out a troublesome thumb.
He has, of course, been bedevilled with well-documented injury problems but the 26-year-old – who turns 27 tomorrow – reckons he is now approaching something like his old robust self since suffering a freak but damaging knee injury playing for Ulster back in January 2011.
“All my injuries are good now and they’re not a problem,” Ferris said at the Ravenhill launch of a three-year partnership between Ulster Rugby and BT which also saw Rory Best and the newly returned Tommy Bowe lend their support to the new venture.
“I had two weeks off and then rehabbed my calf, then I came back after another two weeks and there wasn’t a problem with that at all. Then I got my thumb operated on, so that’s not going to give me any hassle this season, that’s fixed now.
“As for my knees, I’m really, really strong in that area and getting to somewhere where I was before the knee injury.
“I’m feeling good and I’ve had my first bit of contact with a few live mauls,” he added.
Due to his recent thumb operation and the Irish player management programme kicking in, Ferris expects to be available to new coach Mark Anscombe for the third round of PRO12 League games when Ulster host Munster – a side who also have a new Kiwi coach in Rob Penney – at home on September 14th.
The interprovincial clash is also expected to see the first outing for Best (currently recovering from a groin problem) and Ireland tourists Chris Henry and Dan Tuohy, while it is thought that Bowe (fully recovered from surgery on a kidney problem) will be available for selection for Ulster’s opening League game away to Glasgow Warriors on August 31st.
That takes place after friendlies against Bayonne, Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons.
As for working with Anscombe, Ferris stresses that Brian McLaughlin’s successor is focusing on them getting the basics right on the training pitch to hopefully give Ulster greater consistency in the coming season’s league programme, as well as bolstering what needs to be another high-profile European campaign.
“He’s not coming in to change everything, he’s coming in to tweak a few things and give us more coaching and try and make us better,” he said. “I think as far as the workload goes it’s been a lot harder this pre-season than the last couple of years. There’s been a lot more contact training.
“The intensity has just been gradually turned up. He’s getting guys match-hardened before the first match instead of waiting a couple of games. In the second or third game from last season we just got beaten up a little bit and that’s what he’s out to avoid.
“He’s said he doesn’t care if you’re a Lion or an Academy player, if you play well and you put your hand up for selection he’s going to pick you. He’s laid down a marker and all the guys are tuned in,” Ferris added.