Stephen Ferris says Ulster must develop nasty streak in bid to end 17-year trophy drought

Stephen Ferris believes Dan McFarland’s current Ulster side need to develop a nasty streak and toughen up if they are to break their 17-year trophy drought.
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The former Ulster, Ireland and British Lions backrow – now a pundit on Viaplay – was part of the last Ulster team to win silverware back in 2006.

As well as having great players, Ferris attributes winning the Celtic League to having a ‘hard edge’ in the pack.

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“I met Justin Harrison, who captained Ulster that year we won. I had two or three hours chatting away with him, reminiscing, having good craic and talking about the good old days, and talking about some of the games that we played in,” said Ferris, speaking ahead of Ulster’s opening United Rugby Championship game of the new season away to Zebre on Saturday.

Former Ulster player Stephen Ferris, now a pundit for Viaplay, says Ulster need to develop a nasty streak to end their 17-year trophy drought. Picture: ViaplayFormer Ulster player Stephen Ferris, now a pundit for Viaplay, says Ulster need to develop a nasty streak to end their 17-year trophy drought. Picture: Viaplay
Former Ulster player Stephen Ferris, now a pundit for Viaplay, says Ulster need to develop a nasty streak to end their 17-year trophy drought. Picture: Viaplay

“Going away to Musgrave Park and beating Munster; going away to the Ospreys and beating them, going away to Edinburgh and beating them.

“We had this ridiculously hard edge; you had Neil Best – an absolute manic one of the hardest guys I’d ever played rugby with.

“You had Roger Wilson playing brilliant rugby, myself in the back row.”

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“Justin Harrison – he was an enforcer even if he got yellow-carded. I know he folded like a deckchair ever time he carried the ball, but he didn’t need to carry the ball, it was just his presence,” Ferris added.

“The way we got stuck into mauls, the way we fought for one another, the way we trained… there was just a constant edge to us all the time and I don’t see that with the current Ulster team.

“I don’t see an edge, I don’t see somebody that I would be wary about if I went up against them and I think the opposition probably feel that same way when they play against Ulster.

“Seventeen years ago we had a bit of a nasty streak about our side in Ulster which got us over the line against the Ospreys.”

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Seven internationals left Ulster in the summer and Ferris believes it is now time to blood the province’s young talent.

“It feels like it is a huge season, it feels like it is a transitional season for Ulster,” he said. “Dan (McFarland) has a longer contract than just to the end of this season and Jonny Bell and Dan Soper.

“We’ll see at the end of this season if things need to be freshened up but is it a time now, where instead of writing on the whiteboard in pre-season what your objective and goal is – and every season you write ‘win the URC and compete and try to win the European Cup’ – is it now time to write ‘bring through homegrown talent that is going to try and help us achieve those goals in two, three, four or five years’ time’.

“Cameron Doak is only 18 or 19-years-old but is someone like him the future tight head for Ulster Rugby for the next 10 years? He probably is so get minutes into him in competitive rugby.

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“Looking ahead, Rob Herring isn’t probably going to be around for too much longer. I know Tom Stewart is coming through but who is next after him?

“We have to keep producing players and specifically homegrown players.

“We don’t seem to be going down across the border as much either. There has been the amalgamation with Queen’s University and making them [Ulster’s] kind of hub to nourish their talent through into the academy system, and we’ll see how that works out as well.

“That has only come about in the last six months, so we’ll see how that feeds into the club game in Ireland and how Queen’s go in that, and what players are getting game time and playing well and see if they get given an opportunity for Ulster.”

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- Stephen Ferris is part of the Viaplay team bringing live coverage of every BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) game. All 151 fixtures are live on Viaplay throughout the season from round one to the Grand Final.

To celebrate the new URC season, rugby fans can enjoy a free month of subscription to Viaplay and all its channels including full live coverage of every United Rugby Championship game. Visit www.viaplay.comfor more details and enter the code URCFREEMONTH. Offer available via the Sky and Viaplay streaming platform.

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