Saturday 3 December 2016

Ross: We must be careful not to be over-confident

Published 24/07/2015 | 02:30

Mike Ross at yesterday’s Life Style Sports Ireland jersey promotion
Mike Ross at yesterday’s Life Style Sports Ireland jersey promotion

As the Ireland players begin to emerge from the shadows and back into the glaring spotlight, there is a shared sense of quiet confidence emanating from each of them.

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Winning back-to-back Six Nations Championships would give any side the right to be confident but Ireland's repeated poor showings at the World Cup continues to loiter in the background.

Mike Ross has been on this road before and he is determined to eradicate past failings and build on Joe Schmidt's supreme reign.

Ireland's last World Cup showing (2011) was ended in bitter disappointment by Wales and the one prior to that in 2007 was over before it even began. Ross admits that although that particular year hasn't been formally addressed, the players are fully aware of it.

"We know we're on a good run of form, but also we're conscious of 2007," the Leinster prop says cautiously.

Tough

"We want to be careful that we're confident but not overly confident going into it. We have a series of tough games coming up and we want to make sure that we know exactly what we're doing and that we deliver on what's expected of us.

"There are some guys around who were there in 2007, like Paulie (O'Connell) and Eoin Reddan. It's part of our history, so we're aware of it."

The intensity of training has been ramped up in the last week as Ireland's first of four warm-up games draws closer (Wales on August 8) but Ross is adamant that he and his team-mates are treating them as if it is a mini Six Nations.

Mistakes have been made in the past and time will tell whether or not Schmidt's low key approach pays off but from a player's perspective, there is nearly as many places to be lost as there is to be won.

"We have four Tests coming up. They are not friendlies and they are not really warm-ups as such," the 35-year-old insists.

"There will be a lot of highly motivated players because there is no World Cup squad being picked yet for any of the teams that are playing.

"It's pretty much like an abbreviated Six Nations coming up, then a World Cup. At the same time, I don't think anyone is going to play all four (warm-up) matches.

"You know that more than likely everyone will get a shot. It's up to yourself to take the opportunity. But at the same time you can't go out and be a hero - do what's expected of you.

"If you look back to the last World Cup, Conor Murray came from nowhere and got a spot on the plane. David Wallace pretty much had his career ended against England.

"Four games, anything can happen and that's the unfortunate reality of the sport."

Schmidt's faith in Ross at a time when Matt O'Connor dropped him from the Leinster side last season was telling.

Since arriving in this country in 2010, the Cork native has always been one of Schmidt's loyal servants and Ross has continued to repay him in spades but with Marty Moore breathing down his neck, there is no sense of complacency under the Kiwi's stewardship.

"I had to prove myself. He showed faith in me but at the same time I had to play the Wolfhounds game and show I could provide what was required. If I hadn't played well in that game he would have gone onwards," Ross admits.

"You always have to be on your toes. If you don't know your detail that's the one unforgivable sin. Everyone has to be clued in and switched on and know exactly what they're doing.

"It's not like he (Schmidt) has a one size fits all. He tailors things for the teams we're playing and their specific individual weaknesses.

"During games it's like you've got him on your shoulder. He has a very specific idea on how he wants to play the game and the specific processes that lead to that."

As for the World Cup itself and goings on in the front row, Ross is still awaiting the report that will be sent out detailing what referees expect.

"If you look at the referees we have, the likes of (Craig) Joubert and Nigel Owens, they're generally pretty decent at spotting infringements in the scrum. We just have to trust that they have done their homework."

The referee's interpretation of the scrum is out of Ross' control and he is accepting of that, however, he will be doing everything within his power to ensure that the quietly confident approach pays dividends this time around.

If Ireland win the World Cup, Life Style sports will refund anyone who buys the new Irish rugby jersey in store or online this weekend (July 24, 25, or 26).

Irish Independent

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