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Mike Ross aiming to play beyond the World Cup

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Mike Ross

Mike Ross

SPORTSFILE

Mike Ross

All Black Brad Thorn has literally changed the face of professional rugby.

The barely shaving, cocky Academy jocks sit side-by-side with progressively older, sometimes wiser team mates, some aiming to play on as long as their bodies hold up.

When Thorn tore a bicep to end his Super-15 season for Otago Highlanders, it brought into question his stated aim of playing into his forties.

It wasn't long before the legendary forward pitched up on a one-year contract at the Leicester Tigers, where he will turn 40 on February 5 next year.

He has made senior international forwards around the world take notice.

There has to be real life after rugby. But, it doesn't necessarily have to happen sooner rather than later.

Tight head Mike Ross is locked into negotiations on his contract as Ireland's long-serving anchorman.

The 34-year-old veteran sees no reason to ride off into the sunset jut yet.

"I'm actually in talks at the moment. Yeah, I want to get that sorted," he said.

The prop is into the last season of his latest contract and sees a future playing beyond the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"I wouldn't mind two more years," he agreed. "You want to achieve your market value and you also want to be happy with the deal you're doing.

"There's a balance to be struck there too obviously between achieving your value and where you're happy because that's a huge part of it too."

Ross supports the testimony of Rob Kearney from the day before. The difference this time around is that the Irish Rugby Football Union is coming to the table earlier and more professionally.

"You're dealing with one person now, it seems to be. David Nucifora is the main man. He handles that sort of thing. So that simplifies matters a bit," he said.

"I mean, I'm probably talking earlier than I would have been in previous seasons. They've taken stuff from previous years on board and I think it's for the better."

POWER

The Irish scrum will want to stiffen up appreciably from what it produced against South Africa to counter the natural scrummaging power from the Georgians on Sunday.

So much of Georgia's rugby culture revolves around the scrum and the physical elements they bring to that discipline.

"If you look into their background, wrestling is a very popular sport in Georgia. It lends itself to stocky strong men and a lot of them find a natural home in rugby.

"They also have a history of strength sports, a lot of the former Soviet republics would.

"When you have that background and that base, you produce a lot of props.

"If you have a lot of people doing that stuff naturally, then you're going to get some of the by-products of that.

"I watched some of that at the Olympics and they're stereotypical props, a lot of them, especially in the 110 kilo plus category.

Ross had spent a month away from the workplace that is the pitch, with his backside "chained to a watt bike" machine.

It certainly looked that way as the du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, and Tendai Mtawarira turned up the heat on the all-Leinster front three of Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Ross.

"I think we've just been unlucky with injuries. Marty's (Moore) out. (Nathan) Whitey's is out. That is a good bit of depth.

"You take away two of the top tight-heads in any country's armoury and you're going to have more pressure on the guys there.

"We have good some talent coming through. We've Stephen Archer. We've Rodney Ah You. We've Tadhg Furlong. We will be well-served over the next 10 years certainly."

There are young guns riding side-kick to Ross. The time is coming when they will take on the mantle.

The Fermoy front-row forward took an unconventional route into and up through the rugby ranks, eventually making Irish rugby pay attention when he nailed down the number three jersey at Harlequins under the guidance of John Kingston.

The 2014 Six Nations let Europe know he is still able to do what he loves from now until whenever.


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