Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris is back tossing around heavy weights following an extended break to recover from a succession of long-term injuries.
A very fit-looking Ferris was on show at Ravenhill yesterday as Ulster announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with BT.
“I have felt better going into a season, but to be honest all my injuries from last season are now cleared up. The calf injury which forced me out of the New Zealand tour, is not a problem now. I then had to undergo surgery on my thumb and that it is now fixed.
“My knee is also fine, and over the past two weeks, I’ve begun to squat again, something I haven’t done for 18 months because of the type of injury. I feel really strong in that area again and I was squatting 160kg for five reps the other day, and I’m hoping to get up to 200kg in the next couple of weeks,” said Ferris sporting Ulster’s new all-black away kit, and enjoying getting stuck into training.
“In terms of workload, the guys have been saying pre-season has been a lot harder than normal. There has been more contact work to make sure players are ready from the opening game. There was a bit of a slump last season, and new coach Mark Anscombe wants to make sure everybody is up to speed for the opening few games and that there is nothing left in the locker.
“Although I am back only a few weeks, I notice that everybody is fired up and ready to go. Every day the training is being gradually turned up and the level of contact is being brought up ever so slightly.
“It’s all about getting the guys virtually match-hardened before the opening game instead of waiting until you are hardened during the first couple of games. Last season we maybe got beaten up a little bit after a few games, and I think that’s what Mark has looked at and intends to start off with a bang.
“Mark is also a big stickler for basic skills. It is all about when the opportunity comes on the pitch like simple two-on-one, you have to take it. It’s all about doing the reps, it may sound stupid and like school side training, but doing the basics well bring success.
“Mark has also emphasised reputations count for nothing. If you are a Lion or an Academy player, if you play well, put your hand up for selection, he will select you. It’s all about enthusiasm and training really, really well. He said if you put in the effort, you will be selected. So all the guys are tuned in, and they know that Mark wants to win every game!”
Ferris, like Rory Best, Chris Henry and Dan Tuohy will come under the IRFU Player Management Programme, and providing there are no injuries within the squad, will miss the first two RaboDirect Pro12 games before enter the fray against Munster at Ravenhill on September 14.
Returning Ulster stars Tommy Bowe and Roger Wilson, were also rehabbing during the off-season. Wilson will not be ready until September due to a hamstring tear, while Bowe has recovered from a hernia operation during the summer and is available for Ulster’s opening game against Glasgow at Ravenhill on August 31.
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