Caputo backs Ross to handle Marler rematch
MIKE ROSS's struggle to get to grips with Harlequins loosehead prop Joe Marler has been cited as one of the primary factors in him being dropped by Leinster, but one of the men who sidelined the Corkman is backing him to get the better of the duel on Sunday.
Marco Caputo says Ross is in a far better place to tackle the England No 1 at the Aviva Stadium and says he has been impressed with how the 35-year-old bounced back from being left out of the match-day squad for the province's pivotal Champions Cup games against Castres and Wasps.
Despite falling behind rising stars Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong in the pecking order at Leinster, Joe Schmidt has kept faith with Ross for the Six Nations and has been rewarded with two strong displays.
And Leinster scrum coach Caputo reckons Ross can cope with whatever Marler throws at him this time around.
"There are opponents that you do struggle against and everyone's got one," he said.
"Mike had a particularly tough couple of weeks against Marler, but I'll say that Mike's probably in a better place now than he was at the time.
"His pre-season was a bit disrupted, he had some foot and back issues that restricted his involvement. It didn't help that he was coming into it later on, without as much form as he would have had in a normal case had he not had those lingering issues.
"But Marler is one of the most improved loosehead around at the moment. If you look at how he was scrummaging a year ago compared to how he's performing now, he's come on leaps and bounds and is by a mile the standout No 1 in England.
"He has been part of the Harlequins scrum which is really good and he's been the chief destroyer in that scrum. So, Mike will do his analysis and have a good look at where he went wrong against him in the Harlequins matches and he's a clever enough bloke to work out the things he needs to put right to put in a good performance.
"Mike's been pretty good these last couple of Six Nations games and I don't see them wanting to tinker too much with their selections and it will determine which way the outcome is at the weekend."
Caputo is hoping to reap the benefits of Ross' revival when the Six Nations ends and he returns to Leinster, but for now he is just impressed with how the tighthead has dealt with adversity.
"Absolutely, he could have handled those non-selections with us one of two ways - even when he wasn't playing he was in the rooms, doing the analysis and helping out, voicing his opinion," he said,
"I was really happy to see him go out there for Ireland and put some good performances in. We're really looking forward to getting him back here having a good Six Nations under his belt. Hopefully, Leinster get the benefit of that."
Leinster welcome Rhys Ruddock back to their selection mix for Friday night's key Guinness Pro12 clash with Ospreys in Wales.
The Ireland flanker trained fully with the squad at UCD yesterday as he comes back from the broken arm he suffered in December.
Isaac Boss and Fergus McFadden were also present at Leinster's session, meaning they are unlikely to be involved in Ireland's preparations for this weekend's Six Nations clash. Leinster should also get a few more players back when Schmidt narrows his options for England.
"Rhys Ruddock is scheduled to come back. He's been cleared medically. He's just got to go through the last stages of his test and has to get a little contact, more for his benefit psychologically," Caputo said.
"He has ticked every box that he needs to. The plan is to get him out there on Friday night."
"We're hopeful of getting one of the hookers back, one of the half-backs, an outside back - Dave Kearney or Luke Fitzgerald, one of those guys."
Meanwhile, 22-year-old former Leinster and Ireland U-20 flanker Conor Gilsenan has signed a two-year contract extension with London Irish.