‘There is jeopardy now’ – Ireland legend questions Leinster’s credentials ahead of quarter-final with ‘consistent’ Ulster

Adam Kyriacou
Stephen Ferris gives his thoughts on the upcoming Leinster v Ulster clash.

Stephen Ferris gives his thoughts on the upcoming Leinster v Ulster clash.

Former Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris has heaped the pressure on Leinster ahead of their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarter-final with Ulster on Saturday.

The Aviva Stadium meeting will see Ulster look to claim their third successive win over their Irish rivals after beating them home and away this campaign.

That run of form and the fact Leinster have been on a trophy drought for the last three years is something Ulster can use to their advantage, Ferris believes.

Trophy drought

“If we had been having this conversation six weeks ago, I would have said Leinster were going to win by 30 or 40 points,” the former Ulster back-row said.

“But there is jeopardy now. There is a question over Leinster’s mentality and whether they can close big games out. The wait for a trophy goes on and on and on, and the longer it goes on, the more pressure that comes with that.

“Every team in this competition loves to beat Leinster because they have been the best, with four league titles in a row.

“With Ulster having beaten them twice already this season, that will give them huge confidence.”

He added: “There has been so much chopping and changing with the Leinster side, and no doubt there will be a lot more change going into this weekend.

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“They have shown inconsistency over the last few weeks whereas Ulster have been super consistent in their performances. They are just playing so much better.

“They will be relishing the fact that everybody will be writing them off, and they will go after Leinster, that’s for sure.”

Ulster come into the knockout stages of the URC in impressive form as last week’s narrow loss to Munster was their only defeat in their last five league games.

Much of the credit for their revival has been credited to the work of new coach Richie Murphy, who took over the role in March after the exit of Dan McFarland.

“Three months ago, it was doom and gloom,” Ferris continued.

“People were saying Ulster were the fourth best province and rubbish.

“But with a couple of results and a couple of young guys playing very well, it has changed the whole way people are viewing them.

“These young guys are bringing energy and positivity, the fans are back on board. Everyone is speaking in a good way about Ulster rugby at the minute.”

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He added: “They look fit, they look fresh, they all look comfortable with the ball in hand.

“Richie has let the lads play with a little bit more freedom instead of being caged up and worrying about making a mistake.

“He has just given the guys the licence to go and play. It’s much better to watch.

“But the scrum is still a huge area of concern.”

It’s that facet of the game that Ferris worries about ahead of the Leinster clash as he feels it has been an area that has cost Ulster more than once this season.

“They played really well against Munster last weekend, but the change in the momentum was in the scrum. They got dominated a few times and gave away penalties,” he said.

“Earlier in the season, Dan McFarland got the sack after the Ospreys game where they got pumped in the scrum.

“The first match of the season set the tone when they got pumped in the scrum against Zebre. The same thing happened when they lost at home to Edinburgh.

“It’s just been a huge, huge area of concern.

“If Leinster go with their full-strength team, I can’t see Ulster winning because of set-piece.

“With Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter there, I think that’s going to be a real tough one.

“No scrum, no win is what the South Africans say.”

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