28 year-old Ireland, Ulster, and Lions blindside flanker Stephen Ferris has been forced to concede defeat as persistent injuries have taken their toll on his rugby career. Big Stephen was a key member of the Ireland grand slam team of 2009 and he looked the part in the early stages of the subsequent Lions tour of South Africa, only for injury to cruelly deny him Lions test appearances.
There is scarcely a club or country in world rugby that wouldn’t have welcomed the fiery Ferris into their first XV. He had a particular knack of knocking opponents back in the tackle, driving the ball-carrier backwards. Perhaps his best display in an Irish shirt was in the last World Cup when Australia were humbled in their own backyard. On that Saturday in September 2011, Ferris and colleagues distinguished themselves with a powerful defensive display against the Wallabies, thereby stifling the attacking ambitions of the hosts and restricting them to a mere two penalties. Going into the 2012 Six Nations, Stephen’s reputation was at its peak, but as befitting a blindside forward who played his rugby on the edge, he was unfortunate to fall foul of the referee in the dying seconds of the opening encounter against Wales which resulted in a sin bin and the match-winning penalty from Leigh Halfpenny.
Regrettably big Steve has spent more of the last two years on the treatment table than on the playing field. This has been a consequence of the occupational hazard of playing as a combative wing forward. Ferris was a specialist at making big hits, but it seems that his own body has suffered most from such bravado. Meanwhile, the Irish and the Ulster teams can console themselves that they possess a good pool of flankers for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, the best tribute that can be paid to Steve Ferris is to state that many rugby players can sleep a little more soundly in their beds, safe in the knowledge that formidable Ferris won’t be waiting to ambush them in future.