- Stephen Ferris says England remain the prized scalp in European rugby
- "If you ask any team who do they like beating and it's always the English" – Ferris
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Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris says he is out to avenge the hurt of a series of age-group beatings from prized scalp England in the RBS 6 Nations finale at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
The rivals collide in the climax to the championship that will determine who finishes runner-up behind likely winners Wales, who chase the Grand Slam against France at the Millennium Stadium.
Declan Kidney’s side have dominated the fixture over the last 10 years, winning seven of the previous eight meetings in the RBS 6 Nations, including three of the last four at Twickenham.
And the Ulster No.6, who has been in sparkling form for the province in this season’s Heineken Cup, insists years of hurt losing to England at under-age level ensures they remain the a cherished scalp.
"If you ask any team who do they like beating and it's always the English. Why? It's something I can't really put my finger on," said the 26-year-old.
"We took so many beatings from England at under-age level. Any time we played Under-18s, -19s or -20s we always received a thumping. I never beat them.”
Ferris, who has beaten England twice in his 34-cap Test career, stresses that he is on good terms with those England players he met while on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and admires what they have achieved in this Six Nations.
Memories of a turbulent World Cup in New Zealand have been replaced by a wave of optimism generated by the success of an historic three away wins under Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster.
Photo: Getty Images
"I went on the Lions tour and got to know a few of England's players," said Ferris. "I got on so well with them and had an awful lot of respect for them. I became good friends with some of them.
"England are a good side at the moment and are very hard to break down. Saturday will be two good teams going against each other, but we're also looking forward to getting that result."
Ferris' back row colleague Sean O'Brien will start against England despite having spent last week in hospital recovering from a skin infection on his foot.
O'Brien has returned to training and coach Declan Kidney is confident the reigning European player of the year will be ready for the climax to the tournament at Twickenham. A course of antibiotics was needed to treat the infection and O'Brien lost two kilos while ill.
Munster openside Peter O'Mahony, who impressed on his full debut in Saturday's 32-14 rout of Scotland, drops to the bench to make room for the 25-year-old.
"We wouldn't have selected Sean if he wasn't okay. He's trained well this morning," Kidney said. "Absolutely it's a tough call on Peter. He played really well and coped with the pressures of starting."
It is the only change to the side that condemned the Scots to a wooden spoon decider against Italy.