Ireland prop Mike Ross stressed the importance of winning the Six Nations title for the fans whose dedication to the team helps keep him in the job.
Mike Ross played a key role in the scrum on Saturday as Ireland won in Paris for just the second time in 42 years.
The Leinster front rower said he realised how important the victory was as he walked around the Stade de France and saw how many Irish supporters had packed into the stadium.
“God, the place was packed with us,” said Ross. “There was Irish everywhere. I think ‘The Fields of Athenry’ was outweighing ‘Allez les Bleus’ at one stage.
“You can see what it means to the country as a whole. We’ve been through some tough times and if we can give them a little boost with this win we’d be delighted with it.
“A lot of people helped get you where you are today and that goes for everyone. You do think of them.”
The weight of a nation is a big one to carry on your shoulders, but Ross said that the players were always conscious of the sacrifices supporters make to see their heroes in action.
“A lot of people…what we do will make or break their days for them, you know?,” he said.
“There’s a lot of guys who, if we get a good result, it’ll cheer them up for the weekend.
“Those lads are putting their cash on the line. They’re coming to the games, they’re making the flights, they’re journeying, supporting us.
“If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have jobs. So it’s important that we give them something to cheer and give them good days out.”
Ireland certainly managed that on Saturday evening, although emotions would have been very different had Damien Chouly’s late try for France been awarded.
Ross had been substituted at that stage and was warming down using one of the pitchside exercise bikes.
“I was sitting on a bike, spinning away,” the 34-year-old recalls. “I had my head in my hands going, ‘it looks forward’, but we’ve all seen calls where the TMO has decided that ‘yeah, it’s fine’. I kind of went from agony to ecstasy in about 10 seconds.”
It almost goes without saying how much the victory means to the Corkman, who won his 39th cap in the French capital.
“Ah, everything. Everything. There’s probably not too many of these left for me so I’m just delighted – absolutely delighted.
“We know that to get to this position takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes and often it takes a bit of the rub of the green to get there.
“Days like these don’t come around every day, you know? Especially for Drico (Brian O’Driscoll), it being his last time in the Irish team environment, he certainly wanted to go out on a high. And I think he did.”
Life without O’Driscoll in the team will take some getting used to. But Ross is confident that Ireland can go on to win another Six Nations without him.
“Yeah, definitely. Obviously we’ll have a tough pair of boots to fill at number 13 but there’s guys coming through,” he added.
“It’s a systemic thing at the end of the day. It’s not just about one guy being absolutely brilliant – although that helps!”