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Thursday 14 December 2017

Iron mike is not done yet

Tight-head Ross's nature to nurture Furlong costs caps

Mike Ross in action for Leinster,
Mike Ross in action for Leinster,

There was a time when Irish rugby was, literally, held together by one man - John Hayes.

From the turn of the millennium up to 2010, Lansdowne Road, or The Aviva, was known as 'The Bull's Field,' the tight-head generating 105 international caps.

Then, Mike Ross stepped into the breach as a Munster cast-off, redeemed by Premiership club Harlequins and rebooted at home by Leinster to lead the Irish scrum from 2010 to the summer of 2016.

The prop held his own in the inhospitable environment that is test match rugby in South Africa in what would turn out to be his last two caps.

The reality of this professional life is right there in the faces looking back at you from the 2016-2017 Ireland internationals listed on the IRFU website.

There is no one in-between Garry Ringrose and Donnacha Ryan where Ross would have been.

"The way BOD went out, I don't think anyone else got that," reasoned Ross.

"If you look at Paul O'Coneell, his last involvement was on a stretcher.

"David Wallace's last involvement was getting chopped by Manu Tuilagi in a World Cup warm up.

"Not a lot of us get to go out on our own terms," he said.

The generosity of spirit required to make the day-to-day team environment flourish is what eventually comes back to bite the individual on the behind.

When Tadhg Furlong appeared on the Leinster radar, Ross knew this was the man that could end his international career.

The Corkman could have turned his back on his responsibility to nurture that talent.

Instead, he served the greater good by making Furlong better, just like everyone else at the province.

"It's funny, like, he's like the little brother relationship, trying to keep him under my wing," he said.

Ireland's new tight-head, just 24, has now moved to the head of the queue for British & Irish Lions test match status.

"I'd have seen flashes of it coming up," said Ross.

"I remember watching him probably about 2013-14, he was playing against Cardiff, you see flashes.

"And it's 's**t, I'm in trouble here.'"

The 37 year-old veteran is on the last lap and he wants to make it one of victory with Leinster.

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