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Ross: We must iron out flaws in scrum to push past Italians

IRELAND tight-head Mike Ross believes Italy will use the fact that they have never beaten Ireland in the Six Nations "as a big motivating factor".

The Irish front row will have to iron out the flaws at scrum-time where they were blown more than once by referee Steve Walsh last Saturday against France.

"If you win the hit you generally win the scrum. That is usually how it goes," he said. "You have to live right on the edge and, unfortunately, a couple of times we twitched that fraction too early."

Ross is a dry wit who would like nothing better than a dry sod on which to engage Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Coach Declan Kidney has had to draw on all his playing resources without capping Munster's Stephen Archer against the French.

"No one's indispensable in this life," said Ross, despite evidence to the contrary.

John Hayes has long drifted into retirement. Tony Buckley has disappeared from the radar. Tom Court's emergency stint at Twickenham last year only served to highlight the importance of the tight-head position. It is not a part-time job.



All Black John Afoa is first choice at Ulster, New Zealander Nathan White is the anchor at Connacht and BJ Botha the man in possession at Munster. Three foreign players.

Another New Zealander Michael Bent, albeit Irish qualified, was parachuted in over the head of men like Archer for his first cap in November. He was returned to Leinster for a greater understanding of how the scrum is over here.

Then, there is Archer. He has been showing gains in his scrummaging. There is improvement in his set-piece play. However, it is nowhere near proven that he can flourish, in the international arena.

This all leads back to Ross. He is the most indispensable man in Irish rugby. He will have to show why again against a terrific Italy scrum.

"It is a coach's call. I am happy to stay on as long as I am needed. That is the way I look at it. It is not too bad because you have that week bracketed in the middle. You have down time there," he said.



"It is the last game of the championship, so mental tiredness shouldn't really enter into it at this stage. The finish line is there."

The Italians have impressed Ross as "well-coached, well-drilled" and as a force with better conditioning which allows them to fight till the death. This has been aided by their clubs' involvement in the PRO12.

The terrible toll of injury that has fallen in on the Irish squad has been put down as unfortunate. But there is also a positive spin there: "I think it is bloody great for the future.

"You've got guys stepping in who probably wouldn't have been on the radar before the Six Nations, Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson being a case in point."

Archer could be next in line. Then again, maybe not just yet.