Ferris: Ireland must improve home form
February 23, 2012
Stephen Ferris was sin binned during Ireland's defeat to Wales earlier in the Six Nations © Getty Images
Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris insists the transformation of the Aviva Stadium into a fortress must begin by routing Italy on Saturday.
A record of six defeats in nine games since returning to their rebuilt home at Lansdowne Road in November 2010 has left them looking vulnerable on home soil. Six Nations rivals Italy are the next team hoping to complete a triumphant visit to Dublin that would inflict a fourth successive loss on Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Ferris identifies the impressive home record of his province Ulster, who have not been toppled at Ravenhill since early October, as an example of the attitude that should be adopted.
"New Zealand are the only team who have really beaten us, in the rest of the games we probably beat ourselves," said the 26-year-old. "We need to be a bit smarter and when we do have our foot on opponents' throats, we should keep it there.
"In the past we've let teams off the hook. We need to be a bit more clinical and grind it out when we need to. We had the opportunity to do that against Wales three weeks ago. We wouldn't be talking about this if we had beaten Wales.
"With Ulster we drive up to Ravenhill on a Friday night knowing we're going to win. We also need to be driving on the bus to the Aviva knowing that we're going to win.
"That's the feeling you have to get at your home stadium and it comes with results, big victories and strong performances. We should start that this weekend. Leinster have a great record at the Aviva Stadium, so it's not about the ground, it's that our performances haven't been good enough."
The showdown with Italy begins a schedule of four matches in 22 games, forced by the weather-postponed game against France. It means Ireland will have waited three weeks for the opportunity to atone for the 23-21 loss to Wales that opened their Six Nations in such disappointing fashion.
"Everybody's itching to play a game of rugby," Ferris said. "A few lads had a run out for their provinces last weekend but most of us haven't played for a while.
"There's no doubt four successive Test matches will be very physically demanding, but we're used to it. We did it at the World Cup and we play week in week out for the provinces. Speaking with all the players after the France game was postponed, it was never an issue for anyone."
Ireland met Italy twice last year, winning on both occasions in games of contrasting difficulty. In Rome the Irish needed a late Ronan O'Gara drop-goal to escape with a 13-11 victory, while at the World Cup they emerged impressive 36-6 winners.
"Italy have played well so far in this Six Nations and have been unlucky not to get a result in their two games," he said. "They seem to live off errors, so we need to look after the ball. They're very physical and good at the breakdown and set-piece.
"We have to stay patient because it may take 50 or 60 minutes to break them down. It took 49 minutes to score against them at the World Cup and we kicked on from there. It will be a tough day at the office, we know that. It's very important that we win and get things rolling again."
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