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Ross is still holding his own for us


Ireland's Mike Ross arrives for squad training Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland's Mike Ross arrives for squad training Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland's Mike Ross arrives for squad training Photo: Sportsfile

You would really want to be half-mad to play tight-head in rugby.

While Mike Ross is far more likely to be involved in losing matches than his mind, there is a quirky, entertaining side to his character.

When Ireland went to war with France at Stade de France in the Six Nations, the 36-year-old international had to make-do with his sitting-room.

"My wife (Kimberlee) scheduled my son's (Kevin) birthday party for the same time," he said.

"I don't know what she expected to happen, but I kind of ended up on my phone watching the game and being of no help whatsoever."

In the modern age of the all-purpose athlete, Ross is a nod to yester-year when tight-head props had one mission.

As much as many things change in a fast-evolving sport, others stay the same.

The scrum is only as useful as the men holding it up and taking it forward.

With all the variables at work in a test match, coach Joe Schmidt needs certainty wherever he can find it.

That is why Ross was inserted back into the Ireland front row against England even though he was short of match fitness.

"I felt like I was sucking in passing seagulls at one point," he said.

"You try to focus on your job, the set-piece and your role in defence and your role in attack.

"Our scrum was pretty good. Then, it is just getting match fitness back too."

The veteran international was quick to jump to the defence of Schmidt as the calls have come for the introduction of the likes of Garry Ringrose, Matt Healy.

The slow-cooking method taken with Josh van der Flier, Stuart McCloskey and Ultan Dillane is the appropriate one.

"A couple of them will have been in and out of camps. They will have had an idea what is going on.

"It's not like you took guys from outside the set-up and dump them in for the week.

"It's not as simple as that because there is a lot of stuff to take on board.

"It's like learning a different language," he said.

There will be nothing new about the job description when Italy rock-up to The Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

"You know that Italy is going to be a street-fight," said Ross.

"It is probably one of the toughest games you will face as a forward because they will attack you there all day long."

The Italians make the scrum a macho world where your manliness can be taken away in one unmerciful heave.

"They don't tend to hook the ball," he pointed out.

"There is only one thing they can do which is walk over it. That means they have to go forward.

"It is a challenge for us to stop them doing that."