Saturday 16 December 2017

Ferris moves on from nightmare

Ireland flanker vows to make amends for Welsh 'penalty' against Italians

"THE wrong decision probably ended up costing you the game."

These were the hollow words that rang true, but too late, from an unidentified member of the Independent Disciplinary Committee to Ireland's Stephen Ferris before he walked out the door, acquitted of foul play from his citing for the tackle made on Wales lock Ian Evans the last time he played at the Aviva Stadium.

"Getting penalised, costing us the game, getting cited and having to travel over there was obviously a nightmare," said Ferris, at the Ireland press conference out in Carton House yesterday.

Trust is a two-way street. Declan Kidney and Stephen Ferris immediately smoothed over any cracks that may have appeared in their working relationship since 'that tackle' which led to the penalty by Leigh Halfpenny.

"He said, 'Don't let this affect you. You're playing some great rugby week-in, week-out for Ulster. We just want you to do the same things for Ireland the next time you put on the jersey,'" revealed Ferris.

"When I was cleared and the decision was made (that) it was the wrong decision, it was good. I could forget about it. I hadn't done anything wrong."

Amazingly, for a man with a hard reputation, Ferris has never been red carded in professional rugby and only been binned four times. This is a measure of his game awareness.

"Out of the four times I have been yellow carded, Wayne Barnes has done it twice.

"I don't know why that is. It is something to work on -- discipline. I haven't given away a penalty for dangerous play in my whole career."

The Ireland mantras alternate between 'one game at a time' and 'moving on'. Ferris seems keen to dwell on the recent past. He doesn't mind raking over the cold coals.

"When I made the tackle I thought it was fine. I think the majority of people did too. It was one of those things. The referee has to make a decision where he sees it from. If he had been standing on the other side of the ruck (tackle), I think there would have been nothing said about it," he said.

"As soon as I heard the whistle I knew straight away. I heard Mike Phillips shouting about it. I sat on one knee and just felt like the whole of Ireland was on top of me.

"I could have got up and made a song and dance about it. I could have given the referee hassle. But, I just felt so low because I knew where we were on the pitch.

"I knew it was straight in front of the posts and Leigh (Halfpenny) was kicking well all day. I just got up and felt pretty crap. I saw Wayne Barnes. I thought, 'are you going to make me feel even worse'. He showed me yellow.

"There were so many things running through my mind. I didn't think it was appropriate to be giving the referee a hard time. I sucked it up, walked off and Peter O'Mahony gave me a slap on the back."

The Wales defeat was taken as a collective blow. Ferris didn't miss the tackles on George North. He didn't sit back to soak up pressure in the minutes before his yellow card. He stood firm.


The Lisburn man felt the pain of the Irish supporters in Paris too, paying so much for so little in return. He wants to repay the faith shown in him.

"I am very confident in the way I am playing for province and country. I'm just looking forward to getting back out onto the pitch," he said.

"Yes - what happened a couple of weeks ago I will probably think about for the rest of my career. But, there is nothing that can be done about it. It is in the past.

"That is the funny thing about rugby. You get another chance to put it right the next week and that's what I will get a chance to do on Saturday."

And so the Ulsterman is ready to get back to what got him into the jersey in the first place.

He trades on physical punishment and greater subtlety than he is renowned for usually.

Playing hard. Playing fair.

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