Ross: Let’s make most of title shot

Mike Ross has urged his Ireland team-mates to make the most of a rare opportunity to gain international success by beating France in their Six Nations decider in Paris on Saturday.

Ross: Let’s make most of title shot

Tighthead prop Ross, 34, watched Ireland clinch the 2009 Grand Slam from his armchair in London, not making his Test debut until that summer’s tour to North America having switched from Harlequins to Leinster.

While that move home has twice brought the Corkman Heineken Cup glory, he now gets the chance to add some long-awaited silverware with his country as he prepares for the biggest match of his life.

“The fact that they won it that year [2009] was a big watershed in Irish rugby,” Ross said yesterday as he helped launch EA Sports’ Titanfall game in Dublin.

“I was hoping that was just the first one and I’d be around for the next few. It hasn’t materialised like that.

“You’re aware that these opportunities don’t come along that often. You have to look to make the most of them when they do happen.

“At Leinster we won two Heineken Cups on the bounce. You were thinking ‘this is all right, we’ll keep doing this’, and then we were dumped out in the group stages the following year. It brings it home to you how difficult it actually is.”

Having that success at provincial level is undoubtedly a bonus, Ross believes, as Joe Schmidt’s side head into a must-win game at the Stade de France, leading the championship with a far superior points difference after four games from England, who earlier in the day must beat Italy in Rome and hope the Irish slip up in Paris.

“It’s like you’re going into a Heineken Cup final,” the prop said. “Most of us have experienced that. There are a few lads who won the Grand Slam like Drico [Brian O’Driscoll] and Paulie [Paul O’Connell] but a lot of us haven’t won anything in an Irish jersey.

“We can draw on previous experiences. We know from Heineken Cup finals what sort of pressure goes with that. This will just be a little bit more.”

Going into the game on Saturday evening knowing Ireland have played consistently well under Schmidt during the campaign is another great source of self-belief in the camp as they head to the French capital this afternoon.

“I think confidence comes from knowing what you’re doing and if everyone is bang on in knowing exactly what they need to do, what the processes are, the lineout calls and the moves are, that translates into a cleaner breakdown, a more accurate scrum, a better lineout.

“I think so far in the Six Nations we’ve had the quickest ruck time, which is a testament to everyone knowing exactly what they’re doing.

“There has to be two or three guys there making sure the ball is on a platter for our scrum-half, which allows our backs into play. What we’ve seen this year is that we’ve had a consistent level of performance.

“Setting the game against England aside, our games have been improving as we’ve been going on.”

For all the confidence, though, Ross is acutely aware of France’s capacity to surprise — their unpredictability meaning they are often a team which makes the form guide irrelevant.

“They’re really annoying that way. You can’t count on anything with them because if you were watching in the World Cup they lost to Tonga and then got to the final and should have won that.

“So we’re playing the ‘world champions’ in their own backyard, they have the quality of players there — [Louis] Picamoles would make most world 15s now, [Thomas] Domingo is a great loosehead, you have [Yoann] Huget on fire in the backfield. Watch some of his takes and he’s Israel Folau-esque. Sometimes the French can play more as individuals than as a team but given the quality of the individual, that’s often enough. I think I’ll be confident if we play as well as we can. If we do that the result should look after itself but we can’t be a couple of per cent down, otherwise the French will make us pay.”

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