League showpiece a trial for World Cup berths - Ross
Published 24/05/2011 | 05:00
Leinster prop Mike Ross believes Saturday's Magners League Grand Final against Munster is the first trial for Declan Kidney's World Cup squad.
Ireland have five World Cup warm-up games pencilled in for August (an extra game been announced against Connacht), but Ross knows Saturday's Thomond Park clash offers the first opportunity for players to secure one of the 30 plane tickets to New Zealand.
"It is (a World Cup trial) alright because there's no Churchill Cup this year, so it's a last opportunity for people who might be on the fringe to impress," Ross said, at the launch of Champion 'Take one for the Team' campaign, which offers contestants the chance to win a trip to Las Vegas.
"I was in the Churchill Cup panel and you certainly wanted to do everything you could then to put yourself in the frame for the senior team, and I'm sure that will be no different (at Thomond) because no one's guaranteed a spot yet.
"There are only a couple of games in August so this is definitely a chance to lay down a marker."
And Cork-born Ross knows that Munster will be gunning for the newly-crowned European champions as Leinster look to become the first side to win the Magners League-Heineken Cup double in the same season.
"I think it will be more of an incentive for Munster. It's a bigger scalp alright. Being European champions, it's always going to be more difficult when you're going away to different places," he said.
"When you're European champions, everyone wants to beat you. And Munster have been the European champions twice over and I'm sure they'll have something to prove on Saturday.
"We experienced euphoria after winning Saturday's match and we'd like another taste of it this weekend. The Magners League is our bread and butter, so we take it very seriously.
"Last year we won the league on points but lost the final to Ospreys, so that's something we really want to put right this year."
Last Saturday saw Ross collect the first winner's medal of his professional career, which capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since his return from Harlequins.
After signing for Leinster in 2009, he featured only sporadically under Michael Cheika and admitted that the switch to the Blues might have been the wrong move for his career.
And although the arrival of Joe Schmidt led to more game time at provincial level, he was completely overlooked for Ireland's Autumn Internationals last year and was deemed to be behind John Hayes, Tony Buckley and Tom Court for the No 3 jersey -- but now his fitness is crucial for Ireland's World Cup hopes.
"Everyone has worked hard but I've probably taken the road less travelled," he said. "If you had told me five or six years ago that I'd have a Heineken Cup medal in my back pocket and won a few Irish caps I wouldn't have believed you.
"I was thinking to myself the other day when I was walking around the Millennium Stadium, 'is this actually happening?'. It can be a little bit hard to believe, but I certainly put the work in and I've gotten the results."