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There’s More To Come From Us – Ross

There’s More To Come From Us – Ross

Mike Ross showed his immense worth to Ireland once again with a fiercely committed 80-minute performance, as his efforts in the scrum and elsewhere helped Joe Schmidt’s men prevail 26-23 over Australia.

It was Mike Ross’ third start of the GUINNESS Series and for a prop who was nursing a groin problem for weeks beforehand, he has since clocked up a good deal of game-time – 74 minutes against South Africa, 47 against Georgia and the full 80 against the Wallabies.

Ross received intensive treatment on his groin at the Santry Sports Clinic before the November internationals, and his durability was key – especially when the Irish scrum came under pressure at certain points in the South Africa and Australia games.

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As he savoured the hat-trick of wins, the Corkman said: “We’ve proven to ourselves that we can deliver at the top level when it matters. We need to continue just doing that.

“There is a big Six Nations coming, teams will be looking to take the Six Nations title (away from us) and we’ll be looking to defend it. Later on next year, there’s the biggest tournament in rugby, the World Cup. There’s plenty of spots up for grabs and everyone will have to perform.” 

It was perhaps telling that, in Ross’ own words, it was probably his first 80 minutes in a year. The importance of the 34-year-old’s presence in the front row was hugely evident when Ireland won a scrum penalty against the Wallabies in their 22 with five minutes remaining.

By that stage Australian head coach Michael Cheika had sprung Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper from the bench, two added attacking threats that Ross and Ireland had to deal with.

It was good,” he said of the scrum’s performance. “We had a mixed bag earlier in the game. A couple of times we felt they were coming around the corner at us and we decided we would drop a bit lower and see how they handle that. Thankfully we were able to tough it out. 

“It was pretty intense because they had thrown on two game changers in Cooper and Beale and we knew we couldn’t take our eyes off them for a second or they would be through a hole and under the sticks.”

The third and final match of the series ebbed and flowed throughout as early tries from Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe, which gave the hosts a 17-0 buffer, were cancelled out by a Nick Phipps brace and another from his half-back partner Bernard Foley.

Jonathan Sexton kicked an injury-time penalty to send the sides in level at half-time – 20-all – and the tense second period turned into a battle of the kickers as Sexton landed two crucial penalties and Foley converted just one after the break.

“We certainly made tough work for ourselves. We got off to a great start and then they came back into it. After that, things just tightened up massively and it was a case of who could be the most disciplined,” reflected Ross.

“(At half-time) Joe (Schmidt) said just tidy up the rucks, keep aware for their offloads and make sure you get your hussles and jams going. It’s one thing to chop them at the ankles but if they are getting the offloads it creates another dimension you have to be aware of.”

On the back of a triumphant Six Nations campaign, a first GUINNESS Series clean sweep since 2006 has seen the level of expectation surrounding this Irish squad rise even further.

They have leapfrogged Australia into third place in the IRB World Rankings – also for the first time since 2006 – but the current strength in depth has Ireland in a better position to deliver consistently than eight years ago.

“That is Irish sport for you. You are either a hero or villain. There is expectation on us but no more then we are putting on ourselves,” admitted Ross.

“We know the level of performance that is required now and we have to deliver on that every single time, otherwise there is a guy waiting to take your spot. We’ve got two good victories under our belt over two of the southern Hemisphere powers.

“You need to have that belief going forward into the Six Nations and certainly into the World Cup. Most of the pressure is from external sources. We would dismiss that within, ourselves, because it is not much use for us to worry about that.

“It doesn’t help but we know if we get our own game-plan right and execute well we have given ourselves every chance of winning.”