Ulster Rugby today announced that British & Irish Lion Stephen Ferris has committed his future to the club for a further two years.
Ferris, who is in the final year of his current deal with Ulster Rugby, signed his new contract late on Friday afternoon and will remain an Ulster player until at least June 2013.
Ferris joined Ulster Rugby at the start of the 2005-06 season on a development contract. After making his Ulster debut against the Borders in October 2005, he became a regular on the Ulster 22 and moved to a full contract ahead of the 2006-07 season.
Having previously represented Ireland U21s, and part of the squad that participated in the Junior World Cup in Argentina in 2005, in the Autumn of 2006 Stephen was included in the Senior Ireland Squad and won his first Irish International start against Pacific Islands. He has since become an important member of the International Panel and was part of the Ireland team that won the Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam in 2009.
Undoubtably Stephen’s greatest rugby achievement came in the summer of 2009 when he was selected as part of the British & Irish Lions Squad which toured South Africa. He made his Lions debut against the Golden Lions and picked up the man of the match award for his try and all-round effort against the Free State Cheetahs. He looked certain to win a Test place but was dealt a cruel blow when he suffered a knee injury during a training session in Durban which prematurely ended his tour.
Commenting on decision to stay at Ulster Stephen said;
“It means everything. This is home, I was born and raised here, Ulster is the team I’ve always followed and I have a huge desire to achieve something big with the club. I don’t want to leave Ulster without winning something.”
And the fact that there’s plenty of opposition for Stephen in the back row at Ulster was a draw to stay rather than pursue options elsewhere;
“I’m competing against top quality players every single week for my place in the team, I’ve got to be training really hard and absolutely on top of my game to ensure I’m selected and that challenge keeps me hungry and makes sure that I am working to be the best player I can be.”
Stephen also credited David Humphreys as a factor in his decision to stay with Ulster
“In many ways, David has made it very easy to stay. He has a vision for Ulster that I’ve bought into and he recruited well and built a squad that I’m delighted to remain a part of.”
Retaining Ferris as part of the Ulster squad is a major coup for Ulster Rugby who were just one of the clubs competing for his signature and the fact that one of Ireland’s most prodigious talents is keen to stay at Ravenhill is a reflection of Ulster’s ambition.
“Every season is a fresh start to an extent but this season is different” said Ferris
“There is a definite sense that this is the start of something special. There’s a buzz around the squad and organisation as a whole, not just amongst the players and staff but amongst our supporters.”
“ Our young squad of players is growing up together and when you throw in the big names that have signed over the summer I’m very optimistic that we will live up to our potential and excited that I’m going to be a part of it”
Operations Director David Humphreys commented;
“A huge amount has been written about our recruitment of overseas players over the past few months but the retention of Stephen for a further two years is an enormous boost for Ulster and Irish rugby. Ulster’s long term success will be built upon Ulster born players and despite interest from throughout Europe, Stephen’s decision to re-sign with the Province is a very clear indication that he believes we are moving in the right direction.”