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Ross: Scotland Are A Tough Team To Get Away From

Ross: Scotland Are A Tough Team To Get Away From

Mike Ross is set to make his 25th successive RBS 6 Nations start when Ireland meet Scotland on Saturday afternoon. The Cork-born prop said the players are not getting ahead of themselves with Championship talk, as they focus on beating Vern Cotter’s side at BT Murrayfield.

“Any Vern Cotter team generally have a lot of dog in it, they will be aggressive at the breakdown, they will have a good well-coached lineout, and they will bring a lot of nous around the park,” admitted Mike Ross, speaking ahead of the Irish squad’s departure for Edinburgh.

“So I don’t expect Scotland to be any different. Joe (Schmidt) always gets a little glint in his eye whenever he comes up against his old boss (Cotter). I think he quite enjoys getting one up on him. But I think Vern got one up on him the last time we played Clermont away with Leinster.”

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Scotland may have lost their first four games in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, but Ross knows they have the personnel to trouble Ireland and Cotter’s men will be hugely determined to end the campaign with a morale-boosting home win.

“They are a very tough team to get away from. That has come through. They’re very good at disrupting the breakdown, and they have a big powerful back-three. Stuart Hogg, especially, has quite a bit of gas about him and they have a very combative pack.

“So, first and foremost we just need to focus on getting our game-plan right, executing what we need to, and then just looking at what pans out from there.”

The disappointment following the 23-16 defeat to Wales has subsided somewhat but having fought ferociously in the victories over England and France, it was hard to take. Scotland represents an immediate chance to bounce back, something which they did not have when they lost to New Zealand at the end of the 2013 GUINNESS Series.

“After the New Zealand game, we learnt an awful lot from that. You could see that coming through in the game against Australia last year. It is about learning those lessons, taking them forward and applying them. There is no point being taught the same lesson twice is there?

“It would be huge (to win the title again). It would certainly give us a good lift going into the World Cup. It is something we really want as a squad. There was a lot of disappointment in that dressing room after that Welsh game because for some lads, when is the next opportunity going to come around for a Grand Slam again?

“It would be a great achievement for this squad if we could do that, the back-to-back Championships. But at the same time we can’t get ahead of ourselves, the main focus is to beat Scotland first and foremost and any number of points after that would be a bonus.”

The 2015 Championship will not be decided until the conclusion of Saturday’s final game between England and France, which kicks off at 5pm. England were in Ireland’s shoes last year, having to watch Schmidt’s side finish the job against France after securing a big win themselves in Italy.

Points scoring difference is likely to decide the destination of the title once again, with Ross admitting: “It’s a lot like England were last year, you know. I suppose they were really shouting when that ball went forward at the Stade de France, I guess that must have been really gutting for them. I suppose we’ll have an idea of where Wales are after the Italy game, so we’ll know what we need to do there.

“I think England have a tough job on their hands with France. France look like they are coming good, thankfully! So they will be a tough team to beat at Twickenham. But that’s no good at all if we get beaten by Scotland.”

Ross was watching from the stands having been replaced when Ireland coughed up possession against Wales in the very last play. There has been much debate about that final scrum decision in Cardiff, but Ross said the players just want consistency from referees which he felt they got from Wayne Barnes.

“I suppose the referees are really trying to clean it up though, so we probably fell foul of that a little bit. At the same time it is good to see they are paying attention to it and we will certainly be looking at any pictures we painted that might not have been to the referee’s liking and we will tidy it up this week. 

“Looking back you can probably see why the referee called it when he did, but then you could argue the other way too. But as long as there is consistency in the refereeing you can adjust to that. It is when they interpret it different ways (for) both teams that the confusion arises and to be fair to ‘Barnesy’, he officiated pretty much the same the whole way through.”

The Irish camp have quickly refocused their minds on Scotland and as a pack Ross felt they have obvious areas where they need to improve. There is a definite edge about training this week and that is needed to learn from the lessons of Cardiff, the first of which, he says, is not giving cheap penalties away to a talented goal-kicker. Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw will punish Ireland if they make the same mistakes this weekend.

Ross added: “If the fact that we learnt a lesson at the Millennium Stadium saves us from learning the same lesson in the World Cup, it probably would have been worthwhile. It is not something you want to happen in the first place. But, like I said, you have to try and take the positives from it.”