Stephen Ferris believes captaincy is ‘a burden’ on some Irish players

One of the main talking points of the season was the captaincy of Ireland. Last season, it seemed that the Ireland players, and particularly Leinster, had a delicate relationship with the referees.

This is most likely due to the Johnny Sexton row following the 2023 Champions Cup final, when Sexton confronted the refereeing team following La Rochelle’s win over Leinster despite not playing.

James Ryan has had his share of problems with referees this season as Leinster co-captain alongside co-founder and co-manager Garry Ringrose.

There was an incident with referee Chris Busby during an inter-professional derby match with Munster last November, and then during a Champions Cup group stage match between Leinster and La Rochelle, English referee Matthew Carley flatly refused to speak to Ryan and would only speak to Ringrose.

It doesn’t look good and judging by what happened on Saturday, Ryan’s Leinster team-mate Caelan Doris had similar issues with referee Luke Pearce following James Lowe’s controversial disallowed try.


Doris replaced Peter O’Mahony after he was substituted, and following the decision to disallow Lowe’s try, Doris attempted to state his point of view on the incident and how Ronán Kelleher looked as if he had had his neck snapped in the scrum, but Pearce would have none of it and played the ball back to Doris.

Ferris believes that captaincy is robbing Caelan Doris of her abilities.

Being a captain is not an easy task. You have to take on a lot of responsibility on the pitch, while also being a leader in your actions, as well as being able to establish almost political relationships with the referees and being able to discuss decisions on the pitch during the most tense moments of the match.

Former Ireland and Ulster snapper Stephen Ferris has spoken about how the added responsibility of captaincy takes away some of Doris’ game and that he may be a player who doesn’t need the captain’s armband.

During the week I have seen people speaking in the media that they believe the captaincy does not ruin his game.

I wouldn’t agree with that, maybe not in that game in the last 30 minutes of Ireland’s game, but definitely the URC semi-final with Leinster. I think he missed a lot of tackles. Yes, he’s great with the ball, but he just doesn’t seem to have his finger on the pulse like he usually does. He’s probably the most consistent player for Ireland over the last few seasons and has hardly missed a game.

Even in those games where he failed to make an effective attack a few times, the captaincy weighs on you a little, of course it weighs on you a little because you have that responsibility.

So is he a player that you just let loose and don’t give him that responsibility to just go and do his thing? In my opinion, when he’s in that state, that’s when he plays his best rugby.

Ferris also addressed the current Ireland captaincy situation and questioned whether there were any viable candidates of the calibre of some of the captains of recent times.

I hope he (Doris) is the captain this weekend, has a great game and answers some questions I might have, but for me it’s a moot point, not just at this point but for the next few years. Who’s going to take it on?

We had Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Rory Best and others who are in the first team every week. They are a great authority, a great deal of experience, a lot of respect, and it didn’t hinder them in any way.

Ireland are currently in a difficult position after defeat, and defeats always highlight their flaws, but for Andy Farrell and his team this will certainly be a problem for the future.

Whether it’s James Ryan, Caelan Doris or whoever takes over as captain from Peter O’Mahony when he leaves, there has to be someone who can step up.

Maintaining the balance between asking questions and not giving answers is a very difficult one and it seems that the Republic of Ireland and Leinster players in particular are struggling to stay on the referee’s side.

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