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Saturday 10 December 2016

Cornerstone Mike Ross looks rock solid to Schmidt

Mike Ross
Mike Ross

It would seem the importance of Mike Ross to Joe Schmidt's World Cup campaign is set in stone.

Martin Moore's road back from shoulder surgery and Michael Bent's presence as a dual purpose replacement tomorrow looks like bad news for Leinster's fourth tight-head Tadhg Furlong.

"I've had a reasonably long association with Mike now over the last five years," said Schmidt.

"We've worked him into match fitness by playing matches which is not the modern way of doing things, but it's paid pretty good dividends.

Favour

"The one thing I'd say in favour of Mike is that he's come into full Test matches and done an incredibly good job on the back of no game time as well," added Ireland's head coach.

Schmidt mentioned South Africa in November and Italy in the Six Nations as direct evidence of the trust earned by Ross.

"He came on and he delivered both times, especially in the core set-piece areas, and he built into his game from there."

The set-piece is the foundation from which Schmidt will look to move forward with what he declared as a likely 17 forwards and 14 backs squad split for the World Cup.

Change

A straight bat was given to the suggestion Ireland might change the way they play.

"I think we're a relatively open book," he said.

"Teams that do their homework on us have a pretty good indication on how we play.

Meantime, the announcement of Jamie Heaslip as captain for tomorrow's clash against Warren Gatland's inexperienced Welsh side is the earliest indication Schmidt will opt for the number eight as the long-term successor to Paul O'Connell.

The maturity of Paddy Jackson has convinced Schmidt he deserves the first shot as back-up to Jonathan Sexton with Ian Madigan in reserve.

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