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Thursday 19 October 2017

Ross is ready for a munster rumble

Front-rower is convinced Furlong and Moore can become future Lions

Mike Ross moves the ball during training.
Mike Ross moves the ball during training.
Leinster’s Cian Healy during squad training this week in UCD, Belfield. Photo: Sportsfile

Mike Ross doesn't want to see Stuart Hogg any time soon on a rugby pitch.

You wouldn't blame him.

The Scotland full-back made an unholy show of Leinster's front-row on the final day of the Six Nations when veering infield at The Aviva Stadium to find those wearing numbers one-to-three side-by-side-by-side.

It was lip-licking time.

"There were four letter words going through my mind," reported Ross.

"It was like: don't look at me! Don't look at me! Aw, crap, he looked at me," said the Ireland tight-head and slowest forward on foot.

Ireland captain Rory Best was honest enough to take a bullet for that one in the post-match press conference.

"Yeah, nice lad Rory, that's why he is captain, you know," he added.

"To be fair, there wouldn't be too many front-row forwards he wouldn't do that to.

"He seems to have a 25 per cent accelerant when he sniffs the try-line.

Super-power

"It is like a super-power for someone like me. He turned on the after-burners and burned us badly."

The Ireland cornerstone is not employed to deal with quicksilver blurring objects in the open field.

"I am sure he's a s**t scrummager," said Ross.

"That's the thing. It is still a game for all shapes and sizes. That's what makes it great.

"At times like that, you wish you had double-digits on your back instead of three."

The annoyance was Ross had just done quite nicely in his primary role of providing a stable scrum.

"Think about it, we've just gotten up out of a scrum where we're pushing hard. The legs are heavy already."

The ball was moved right to a wide ruck where Conor Murray launched one of his fabled box-kicks.

The only problem was it went far enough to allow Hogg time and space to survey his options.

Th full-back had previous when it came to exploiting Ross.

"He had done me before playing for Glasgow. Obviously, he's fierce fond of seeing me."

The game is changing quickly. The menu does too.

The down-gear shift from Ross putting away his Ireland shirt to pulling on his Leinster one may last until the PRO12 League final on May 28.

The decision of Marty Moore to make the move to Wasps and Tadhg Furlong's ongoing development into an international prop leaves Ross looking every inch the John Hayes of Irish rugby for this and next season.

"It is a great comparison for me. He was a bloody hero. He didn't miss an Irish Six Nations campaign for ten years.

"I am in a different situation to Hayes. I have Tadhg and Marty coming behind me."

Twenty-three year old Furlong encountered a drop from Ireland's bench to provincial rugby during the Six Nations.

"You've got to remember Tadhg is a baby in prop years," said Ross.

"He just needs some seasoning which will come with experience."

Moore's abdication of the province will leave a void that will take a lot of filling in.

"Ideally, in a squad, you've got a young fella, you've got a guy on the cusp, and you've got the old head.

"That way, you can rotate them, depending on your needs, keep them all fresh and you only really know where you are in the pecking order when it comes to big games.

"I am fully convinced we have two international quality tight-heads for Ireland and there's no reason why both can't play for The Lions, form and fitness permitting into the future."

The unofficial seeding in Irish provincial rugby is more difficult to nail down right now than it has been for many years as Connacht hold onto controls at command central with Leinster, Munster and Ulster chasing hard, in that order.

"It's not a bad conundrum for Irish rugby is it?" acknowledged Ross.

"Connacht have had enough hard seasons, they'll tell you themselves. They are at the top and they have earned it.

"We're all chasing them."

There must be a part of Ross who feels for Munster's predicament as a declining force for forward play, especially in the front five.

"I've always found Munster's scrum one of the toughest to play against. They're always fairly fired-up when they play us.

"They move you around a lot and they vary things up. You're never quite sure what to expect once you go in there.

"Killer (Dave Kilcoyne) and James (Cronin), they're fighting each other hard for game time.

"There is no clear first and second choice there. That will keep both of them on their toes."

Munster picked up all five points at home to Zebre, while holding the Italians to nil, and will come to The Aviva in the right frame of mind.

They will be upskilled from that hit out and by the return of their core of Irish internationals.

"They have those leader players back, like CJ Stander, Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray as well as the obvious danger from Simon (Zebo) and Keith (Earls).

"We have to be ready for them."

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