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Ross battered and bruised but fired up for Scots

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Ireland's Mike Ross during a press conference ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game against Scotland on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

Ireland's Mike Ross during a press conference ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game against Scotland on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

Ireland's Mike Ross during a press conference ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game against Scotland on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Squad Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

If there was any more evidence required to substantiate the savage physical tolls being wrought on Ireland's rugby players, then Mike Ross provided it yesterday.

Below his right eye, a bruise and a wound that required three stitches indicated just how lucky he had been that a stray, accidental French stud did not blind him.

As a third of the side that started last Sunday's Paris draw sat out training yesterday, Ireland's campaign suddenly has a battle-fatigued look to it.

Ross would have been one of those perhaps scenting a rest this weekend, although he is probably one of the players whose conditioning requires more, not less, action.

"A lot of the forwards are pretty battered and I still feel pretty rough two days later," says the Corkman. "There was no quarter asked or given in the Stade de France.

"But we've excellent medical staff and I'm sure they're not going to flog us this week. I wouldn't say I'm feeling good -- I probably feel a little more human.

"The day after the match I experienced what I call a physical hangover, one of those days when you don't really want to shift yourself off the couch. I started to move a bit today and hopefully I'll be fresher for tomorrow."

With effectively only one training session this week to iron out the faults that still remain embedded alongside Ireland's good stuff, it is not ideal preparation to face the gnarly Scots, fresh from their two-week break and the memory of an effervescent attacking display against France.

"We don't feel that we're missing out by not having more sessions," points out coach Mark Tainton, who also declared that fourth-placed Ireland have the "most effective" defence in the competition.

Still, the contrast with the Grand Slam-winning season of 2009 is apt; then, Declan Kidney's only changes to his unbeaten squad were four tactical switches for the trip to Scotland.

"That's just luck," says Tainton. "Any player can get injured any time. We were very, very fortunate in 2009.

"Two of them this season were just freak injuries. Other players have suffered from a bit of wear and tear. The medical team will have their work cut out for the next 48 hours, but we're confident they'll be ready."

Hence, there was a marked reluctance among the Irish management to declare Paul O'Connell's successor as captain -- with Ross improbably listing Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip as candidates, despite Rory Best's clear favouritism for the role.

Following his visit to a specialist, O'Connell arrived at the team hotel last evening to undertake the video review and, with the policy of naming the team a sacrosanct matter for the IRFU, perhaps mere protocol delays the announcement.

Ross is clearer on the manner in which Ireland need to replicate their blistering, blitzing opening to last Sunday's clash when the busy Scots come to town.

"That was critical for us last weekend," he says. "Scotland play a high-tempo game, they will try to go through the phases and stretch you as much as possible. We know that we have to do the same to them."

Ross is not too worried that Ireland have now failed to close out two tight matches in the last three.

"I don't think it's a worry. In a lot of cases, it's been execution that let us down. It's fractions, being too early for a line-out lift or not getting that final pass away.

"Sunday was an improvement on Italy, which itself was an improvement on Wales. We're going in the right direction,but we need to keep that consistency going into this weekend."

Irish Independent