Sunday 11 December 2016

Player Diary: No Six Nations camp for me - and I'll miss it

For lads like Josh van der Flier, it's hugely exciting to be involved but I have to be patient, and hope to get back

Mike Ross

Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30

Mike Ross will miss the first two Six Nations games but he is hoping to find his form with Leinster to earn a recall for the last three Ireland matches (Sportsfile)
Mike Ross will miss the first two Six Nations games but he is hoping to find his form with Leinster to earn a recall for the last three Ireland matches (Sportsfile)
Mike Ross (Sportsfile)

I came to an interesting realisation during the week: I'm currently living the life of a fitness model! Four upper body sessions a week and cardio, lots of cardio. Now, I doubt I'll be on the front page of 'Men's Health' any time soon, but I've been missing doing rugby things, like scrummaging and hitting rucks.

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The rehab from the hamstring injury is going well though, and I started running again last week. There's a strictly structured rehab programme, and right now what I'm trying to do is strengthen the hamstring (which was weakened by the injury) before I bring the running speeds up. But I am making progress.

I watched with interest the Six Nations squad announcement. It was the first one in five years I was going to miss out on. Joe will usually ring the players who didn't make the cut, and his number was never one you wanted to see on your phone. My chat with him was brief enough, he told me that I wasn't being considered for the initial two games, but if I came back in good form the door was open for the remaining three.

I was expecting the call really but still there was a pang looking at the list of players who'd made the cut. Still, I'd been remarkably fortunate with injury for previous campaigns, and had made 25 consecutive Six Nations starts, so I can't be too greedy! The Six Nations is a fantastic tournament, and one of the highlights of a player's career.

Many congratulations must go out to lads who are making the squad for the first time like Josh van der Flier, Ultan Dillane and CJ Stander. So what is Ireland camp like?

Generally, you go in on the Monday morning at around 10 or 11 and there's a bit of admin to get through. There's the all-important gear allocation then, and you'll receive a fully-packed wheelie bag with all your kit for the campaign inside, carefully labelled with your initials. It's like Christmas morning! Free kit everywhere!

After that, there are head shots for the website and other media, if you haven't been done before or if the jersey has changed. In recent years you've also had to do some 'walk towards the camera and look up' bits to keep the television broadcasters happy.

You'll need to sign in with the medics and appraise them of any niggles you might be nursing. And then, of course, you meet and catch up with your team-mates over lunch before the first team meeting.

Camp is quite hectic, and the schedule (emailed out every evening) keeps you busy from around eight in the morning until six or seven at night. The new arrivals will have a whole new language to learn, from the names of attacking plays and the roles they have, to new lineout codes that they have to master. Training is a step-up from your province, and that is as it should be. There's very little tolerance for not knowing your role in the first week, and none at all in the second, so the pressure can be intense.

There are two physios and two full-time masseurs so you're well looked after for all your soft tissue needs, and a doctor oversees the whole operation. Slots are available throughout the day so you can fit them in around your schedule. Overall, it's a pressurised but brilliantly exciting experience, and for many of the guys in the squad it's only the first of many to come.

As for me, I'll be keeping the head down over the next few weeks and working hard to get back on the pitch. Myself and Cian Healy are in the same boat at the moment, so we're keeping each other company. Luckily for me, he makes a very good coffee so there are some perks to the relationship!

Next up for Leinster are the Dragons, and we'll be wanting to get back to winning ways after a hugely disappointing performance against Wasps. We're missing nearly 30 players between injuries and international call-ups, so the squad is really going to be tested. At the same time, there's a big opportunity for guys to step up and make their own marks. Win tonight, and we'll be top of the league, for 24 hours at least. It's a big prize, and one we'll be very anxious to claim.

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