Monday 18 December 2017

Ross: We must cut errors

Tight-head believes Blues must tidy up inaccuracies to land a knockout blow when Clermont visit Dublin

"I JUST coughed up the rib that Hinesy shook loose this morning".

That was the humorous, not to mention kind, reaction of Leinster tight-head Mike Ross after a bout of hand-to-hand combat against former Leinster second row Nathan Hines at Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday.

It has taken its toll: "We've been in a better place. But, we have a bit of time for recovery between now and then. Hopefully, things will start to feel normal by the time the game comes around."

Perhaps, it should have come as no surprise that Leinster looked to their scrum to compensate for the loss of British & Irish Lions quality backs in Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald.

Once referee Nigel Owens stopped dwelling on the debatable technicalities, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Ross demolished a Clermont-Auvergne front row without the significance of Thomas Domingo.

"We've worked hard on the scrum. But, we're not going to start thinking we've made it. I know from experience that every match is different."

What a turnaround in the space of eight months. The Clermont front row was made to look a pale shadow of the scrimmaging unit that posed problems for Leinster in last season's Heineken Cup semi-final.

"They gave us the 'hurry-up' a couple of times down in Bordeaux last year. We managed to turn that around a bit last weekend. But, I am sure they will work hard on it."

Vincent Debaty was exposed as a converted tight-head employed to shore up an area usually reserved for the specialist skills of Thomas Domingo. He was not the answer.

Do Clermont have an answer? "Yeah, I was impressed enough with (Raphael) Chaume when he came on. He is a young loose-head. They've been playing him.

"He played well against Toulouse (two weeks ago), got stuck into Census Johnston a couple of times. He is an option.

"They've got (Daniel) Kotze, who came on at the weekend. He is a South African, a decent scrummager. They have two or three decent front rows there."


Despite all the mythology around the dark arts, Ross has never been one to overcomplicate the 'goings-on' at scrum time.

"I don't think we will do much differently. As long as we stay straight and keep our heads above our hips -- it is simple physics - it is going to go well for you."

While the scrum surged, the lineout dipped when the normally accurate Richardt Strauss failed to find his jumpers in the air.

"It is not just on the hooker. It is a timing issue with lifters and jumpers. It is very easy to point the finger at the hooker," said Ross, in defence of a fellow member of the front-row union.

"We just need to tidy up a few inaccuracies when we have scoring opportunities. If we get those right, we will be in a much better position to win the game on Saturday."

Ross also confirmed that things are progressing in terms of agreeing a new contract which will keep him at the province.

"I am happy where I am. It is not something I really like to talk about. I try to keep that stuff private.

"I am chatting with the union (IRFU) and I think we are going down the right track."

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