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Ferris confident Irish back row can conquer World

STEPHEN Ferris insists Ireland's back row is capable of mixing it with any loose trio at the World Cup.

Ferris, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip have formed the tournament's most effective partnership, though Wales and New Zealand are pushing them close.

There are few more destructive ball carriers than Ferris and O'Brien, the flankers whose physicality has identified them as Ireland's outstanding players.

No8 Heaslip has shown a remarkable appetite for work and is the only member of the squad to have played every minute of all four pool matches.

"We fancy ourselves against any back row at the World Cup. Given the way we're playing we'd rate ourselves against anyone," said Ferris.

"It's great being a part of this unit. Sean has been fantastic. The Italy game was only the second time I've started with him.

"Every time he carries the ball you're looking to run off his shoulder because you know he'll break the first tackle. Sean thinks the same of me and we both think the same of Jamie.

"We seem to be clicking very well and sharing the workload. The balance is good -- it's worked well so far."

The back row has spearheaded Ireland's march into the quarter-finals, where they will meet Wales in Wellington on Saturday.

Victories over Australia and Italy have identified them as genuine contenders to reach the final.

"Coming into the World Cup we talked about taking it game by game and that's what we've done," said Ferris.

"Wales are playing some good stuff at the moment, but the way we're playing at the moment we can beat anyone."

Ireland lost all four warm-up internationals yet have so far proved one of the success stories of the World Cup, prompting Ferris to draw similarities with England four years ago.

"Australia was a game we knew we could win if we played to our potential, but there's more in the tank," said the Lions flanker.

"We have to be ambitious. England four years ago didn't have a good record coming into the competition but reached the final. Hopefully we can go one step further."