Stephen Ferris is hopeful of a bright future for 21-year-old Tom Stewart, after he impressed on his first start for Ulster.
Stewart has played just seven times for Ulster, although he looked well able for the rigours of an inter-provincial derby as he helped his team to a comfortable 36-10 win against Connacht.
The hooker scored a try after breaking off from a maul about 15 metres out and was just inches away from scoring a second, before Nathan Doak touched the ball down from close range after Stewart’s efforts.
Ulster great Stephen Ferris was speaking on Premier Sport’s URC Unloaded podcast and stressed just how promising a prospect Stewart is in his review of the win against Connacht.
Stephen Ferris on Tom Stewart.
“In the first 20 minutes it was 0-0 on the scoreboard, they were throwing it around a little bit and making a few mistakes, and then they tightened it up,” Ferris started.
“Connacht gave away a few penalties and could have easily had a couple more yellow cards in the game. Ulster went back to their maul, it was such a weapon last year. Young Tom Stewart, what a player he’s hopefully going to be.
“He’s going to have to get past [Ronan] Kelleher of course at Leinster to work his way into an Irish jersey. [Dan] Sheehan as well down at Leinster but Tom Stewart’s a quality player.
“[He] only has six or seven caps to his name, that was his first start as well. The baby face on him, he’s only a spring chicken.”
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Ireland’s depth at hooker.
While Stewart certainly looks to be an exciting talent, there isn’t exactly a shortage of quality young hookers in Ireland at the moment.
Ronan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan have established themselves as Ireland’s best in the number two jersey, and both have years of rugby ahead of them as each man is just 24 years old.
At Ulster, Rob Herring is likely still ahead of Stewart in the pecking order as he has proven to be well able for international rugby, although he has significantly more miles on the clock at the age of 32.
An Ireland cap may still be a while away for Stewart, although the Ulsterman has been included in the Emerging Ireland squad which is heading to South Africa in the coming days.