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'Phenomenal' Ferris' injury was my only way into Lions side -- Croft

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Stephen Ferris

Stephen Ferris

Tom Croft. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Croft. Photo: Getty Images

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Stephen Ferris

Tom Croft barely owes anyone a debt of gratitude at this stage of his career -- as his wondrous winning try in Paris last weekend demonstrated -- but he will still readily seek out the hand of Stephen Ferris this Saturday.

Although only called up to the Lions tour of 2009 after Alan Quinlan's eye-gouging ban, it was the tour-ending injury to Ferris that allowed Croft to stamp his authority on that South African series, propelling him to the forefront of the world game.

"On one leg?" the 26-year-old smiles when asked to assess the merits of a rival infamously stripped of the majority of cartilage in one knee. "He is a world-class player. If he hadn't have got injured on the Lions tour I potentially would not have got my chance.

"In terms of not having a knee it doesn't seem to be stopping him. He is leading the way in that Irish side, he's a phenomenal player, carries well, hits hard and his work rate is similar to Chris Robshaw. He seems to be everywhere."

Croft has experienced Ferris at close hand already this season -- and was slapped around like a rag doll at Ravenhill when his Leicester side's Heineken Cup hopes splintered into dust.

He hopes to reverse the tide this weekend, with last season's Grand Slam implosion another incentive, not to mention England's farcical World Cup campaign.

"From a Leicester perspective, away in Ulster we were caught very, very cold and had lost the game in the first 20-25 minutes and that was similar to how it was in that last game of the Six Nations last year," he says.

"Those messages will be reinforced this week but this is a new side and we've set new benchmarks in terms of our defence.

"Obviously there are attacking aspects to work on but in terms of our defence, Ireland are the top try-scorers in the tournament so they pose a big threat to us. But that's what we want in our last game -- we wouldn't want an easy game.

"The World Cup has gone past and it's about focusing on the areas we need to, not dredging through the past for the sake of it.

"Everyone's fully aware of what happened in Ireland last year and from our club sides, we know what Irish teams can offer. We know the threat and we'll be fully aware of it come the weekend."

Irish Independent