Mike Ross convinced Ireland moving in the right direction

Mike Ross convinced Ireland moving in the right direction

Mike Ross at the launch ISPCC Childline’s ‘Team Of Us-Together for Childline’ competition. The competition gives Irish Rugby supporters the chance to win one of the players’ signed matchday jerseys from the 23-man squad that will face England. To be in with a chance of winning one of the jerseys, simply make a donation of at least €10 to ISPCC Childline at idonate.ie/teamofus. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Mike Ross understands how fickle public perception of Irish rugby success can be and that that it will be viewed through the prism of this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations finale against England.

Yet the former Ireland tighthead prop believes the current squad is heading in the right direction under head coach Andy Farrell and the performance in victory over Scotland at Murrayfield has shown him enough to suggest that if the Irish management can combine all the facets consistently over 80 minutes they could be a team of more than the sum of its parts.

Ross was speaking yesterday to launch ISPCC Childline’s ‘Team Of Us-Together for Childline’ competition, backed by Vodafone and Irish Rugby. He said the Ireland camp would be “irritated by the lack of consistency” in building a dominant position at 24-10 after 50 minutes only to let the Scots level the scores inside the final 10 minutes before Johnny Sexton rescued the win with a late penalty. Yet he added that Ireland were moving in the right direction and gave a special mention to the work of new forwards coach and former team-mate Paul O’Connell.

“I think they are. The set-piece is good. They absolutely crucified the Scottish lineout. What was it? The Scots won two (successful throws from eight). Those are ridiculous stats, so Paulie has come in and made an impact. The scrum, we got one penalty (against) but to my eyes, it looked a little bit wily with WP Nel going in at a bit of an angle which I know he loves to do.

“The set-piece has been good, the rucking has generally been good, it’s just about putting the sum of the parts together and getting a consistent game, the defence is good in spells, the attack is good in spells but it is about keeping it, putting the whole thing together and about being more than the sum of the parts.”

A self-confessed scrummaging nerd, Ross warned the England set-piece posed a threat in Dublin this Saturday but that Ireland’s scrum had improved under specialist coach John Fogarty, who Ross worked with at Leinster before his retirement in 2017.

“It can be dangerous,” Ross said of the English scrum. “It should be even enough, but it depends what attitude we come with, too. The English, they put tremendous pride in their scrum. They want to attack you there and lay down a physical marker. I’ve had bad days and I’ve had good days against the English scrum but I think if you look at the components of our scrum, James Ryan and Iain Henderson make a big difference there.

“They’ve tweaked the scrum set-up. Before, they had a kind of sling-shot approach, the number eight taking the weight off the second rows and pushing them in. Now they stay down, the second rows stay on their knees until the bind call and then they come up, which, instead of hitting in two stages, you’re just going bang, all the weight goes on straight away.

“Fogs has learned from Saracens v Leinster last year and the set-up has been looking really nice. It seems balanced, it seems stable, and it seems powerful.”

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