Ross backs front-row 'reserves' to deliver in Six nations
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-rows.
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 Leinster man 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 just one of those things."
"Guys roll their ankles most weeks, but with the angle of the rotation and everything else, he has done a more serious injury. It requires 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 looked 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, the strife between the Welsh Rugby Union and its four deeply disaffected regional sides will be exacerbated over the Christmas period when members of the paying public stage a series of protests aimed at the governing body.
Supporters of Cardiff Blues, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets will take action during the Pro12 derby games between December 20 and January 3 as a means of voicing concern over the mass exodus of top international players and the continuing uncertainty over their teams' long-term viability in the land of the Six Nations champions.
"Our future is under threat as never before and it is time for all Welsh fans to stand up and be counted," the supporters' clubs said in a statement last night.
"The WRU cannot be allowed to turn its back on the very organisations and individuals who have provided its success. Every single season ticket holder and match attendee deserves a voice and we are working to launch a concerted campaign to show the WRU how we feel."