Ferris says pressure is on Leinster ahead of all Irish quarter-final

Ferris says pressure is on Leinster ahead of all Irish quarter-final

Former Ireland star and Premier Sports pundit Stephen Ferris says the pressure is on Leinster Rugby going into their BKT URC quarter-final against Ulster Rugby at the Aviva Stadium.

The Dublin-based province haven’t won a trophy for three years and missed out once again by losing the Investec Champions Cup final to Toulouse after extra time last month.

Ferris believes there is a question mark over their mentality and says resurgent Ulster will be full of confidence after beating them twice already this season.

He will be commentating on Saturday evening’s play-off clash for Premier Sports (live on Premier Sports 1 from 7.15pm) and feels it could be a real close contest.

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

“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.

“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 won four of their last five league matches - including a dramatic Belfast victory over Leinster - to finish sixth in the BKT URC table and book a spot in the knock-out stage, with Richie Murphy having overseen something of a revival since taking over as coach in March.

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

“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.”

Analysing his former team further, Ferris continued: “They have been really competitive and really strong.

“They are direct when they need to be, but the huge thing for me is how much width they are keeping on their game.

“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.”

Expanding on that point, Ferris said: “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.

“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.”

Former flanker Ferris will also be commentating for Premier Sports on the opening quarter-final between Munster Rugby and the Ospreys at Limerick’s Thomond Park on Friday night (live on Premier Sports from 7pm).

“If there’s going to be an upset this weekend it would be there because of how good the Ospreys scrum can be,” he said.

“Their set-piece is generally pretty sound. They have been class up front. I don’t think they have been pushed around by any team and that will be a real positive for them moving into this game.

“I wasn’t that impressed by Munster last weekend. Ulster really did take it to them.

“If the Ospreys can get stuck into the Munster set-piece, that for me could be the only surprise this weekend.

“It would be class, eighth beating first away from home. That would be brilliant for the competition.”

Stephen Ferris is part of the Premier Sports team bringing every game live from across the BKT United Rugby Championship throughout the season, including all the drama from the play-offs and the URC Grand Final on 22 June. Premier Sports will also be showing every URC game live throughout next season 2024/25. Visit www.premiersports.com for more information. Tune in this weekend to Premier Sports for all the action from four box office BKT United Rugby Championship quarter finals.

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