Sunday 22 April 2018

Ferris hopes Jackson 'can use rugby as a distraction' after questioning over sex offences

Stephen Ferris at The Helix in DCU, at the launch of the ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, presented by AIG Insurance. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Stephen Ferris at The Helix in DCU, at the launch of the ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, presented by AIG Insurance. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Ciaran Gallagher

Stephen Ferris has insisted that Ireland will not be distracted by Paddy Jackson's absence from the international set-up ahead of Saturday's clash with New Zealand.

It emerged late on Monday night that Jackson and Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding had been questioned by the PSNI about alleged sexual offences, with both players "denying any wrongdoing".

With 24-year-old Jackson unavailable, the uncapped Joey Carbery is acting as Johnny Sexton's understudy but Ferris feels it won't have any effect on the squad. "For me, if I was in the Ireland team across there, you'd be fully focused on the match," said former Ireland flanker Ferris on Jackson's absence from the squad.

"I'd say the issue has been fully addressed by Joe, the management over there and there has been a line drawn under it and they just have to focus on the game.

"Yes, they are friendly with Paddy and that's it, but I'd be focused on the game solely. That's me being maybe a little bit selfish, but that's professional rugby and if one or two lads go out and they don't perform against New Zealand, they won't get picked against Canada the following week.

"You've got to be a little bit selfish and think about the here and now and I think that's what Joe will be saying over there this weekend," added Ferris, who was understandably reluctant to comment in detail on Jackon's situation. "He's a good mate of mine, I played with him for a number of years," said the former Ulster back-row. "So to see his name in the headlines this week, it affected me as well.

"I just hope he can use rugby as a distraction over the next week and hopefully get back into the team within the next couple of weeks and play like I know he can," added Ferris, backing Ulster to "do their talking on the pitch" tomorrow night against Edinburgh following an patchy run of form.

Looking ahead to Saturday's Test in Chicago, 31-year-old Ferris, who suffered defeats against the All Blacks in 2008 and 2010, admitted that he only expects there to be one winner this weekend.

Steve Hansen's side are on a record-breaking 18-Test winning streak and Ferris allowed his head to overrule his heart as he backed New Zealand to extend that run.

"We're Irish, we always have a chance," said Ferris, speaking in promotion of AIG's 'Rugby Weekend' event in Chicago. "But what is it 18 [wins] on the bounce? Do I think it's going to be 19? Yes, I do think it's going to be 19, but I think they can put in a performance and build on it for the next couple of weeks.

"But you never know if they can get 10 points ahead early on, will New Zealand come back? Yes, they probably will, but at the same time every opportunity has to be taken," added the retired back-row, who believes it is essential that Ireland avoid a heavy defeat if they want to set up an Aviva Stadium trap for the All Blacks in two weeks' time.

"If there are opportunities there, they [Ireland] have to be clinical. If they go out and let themselves down and go out and get beaten by 50 or 60 points, then it's almost like back to the drawing board."

Irish Independent

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