Mike Ross: 'We can cope without Cian Healy'
Ross adamant Ireland possess front-row talent to thrive despite Healy, Best woe
Mike Ross says he has no fears about Ireland kicking off their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 2 even if they are without two of their first-choice front-row.
Loosehead prop Cian Healy joined Ulster hooker Rory Best on the sidelines after Leinster belatedly confirmed that the Clontarf man underwent hush-hush surgery two days ago on an ankle problem.
Best fractured a wrist during Ireland's defeat to New Zealand in Lansdowne Road last month and said after surgery this week that he had hesitantly set a late January date for his return to action.
With Leinster's Richardt Strauss on the long-term injury list, in-form Sean Cronin is the next senior talent available to Joe Schmidt.
However, along with looseheads Jack McGrath (Leinster) and Munster duo James Cronin and Dave Kilcoyne, Ross says Ireland are well equipped to survive the twin injury blow.
"I think we're well-stocked there," said Ross. "Loosehead is a pretty healthy position at the moment."
Healy injured the ankle last week in training, but Leinster shielded the news from the public for a full week before disclosing details yesterday.
"Blokes getting broken at training is a part of the game," said Matt O'Connor ahead of this weekend's round 4 Heineken Cup Pool 1 clash with Northampton Saints in Lansdowne Road.
"He rolled his ankle. It was one of those things. It could have been a very minor incident.
"Guys roll their ankles most week, but with the angle of the rotation and everything else, he has done a more serious injury which requires pretty minor surgery, but it still comes at a cost time-wise."
Sean O'Brien (dead leg) is expected to return to action as coach O'Connor aimed to deflect concern that tiring transfer negotiations might affect his star players, O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
"Not really, it's one of those things that goes with the professional game," said the Australian. "There are contract negotiations going on constantly in the environment, some not as high-profile as these, but it happens all the time. As an organisation with players, it's something they have to deal with, and it won't be a factor."
Meanwhile, Donnacha Ryan could be a surprise inclusion in the Munster team for tomorrow's trip to Perpignan.
The second-row and Tommy O'Donnell both look set to return to Rob penney's squad for the first time since October after coming through training yesterday, with Ryan possibly fit enough to earn a starting place.