Three stitches under Mike Ross’s right eye told you all you needed to know about the physical toll a Test match in Paris takes on a player but the Ireland tighthead prop believes he will be fresh and ready to go again when duty calls this Saturday against the Scots.
The cut and bruising around the eye, applied courtesy of a French boot last Sunday, was only the visual evidence of a typically intense encounter with France, and Ross is grateful that the Ireland management are treating them with kid gloves this week at Carton House in the narrow timeframe of just six days between games.
“A lot of the forwards from that (France) game are feeling pretty battered,” Ross said yesterday. “It was intensely physical over there and there wasn’t much quarter given or asked.
“But we’ve an excellent medical staff and excellent conditioners so I’m sure they’re not going to flog us this week and we’ll all be in as good a shape as we can be coming up to Saturday.”
Leinster prop Ross described the slow process of getting such a tough game out of the system.
“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling good, but you feel more human,” he said. “(On Monday) I’d call it a physical hangover, where you just don’t really want to get off the couch. Today you’re starting to move a bit more. Then tomorrow you’ll feel a bit fresher again.”
The Corkman is also experiencing a slow turnaround in his feelings about last weekend’s draw and starting to see the positives, but only as long as they are capitalised this weekend.
“We’re pretty frustrated,” Ross said. “It was a great chance to get another win there, which are really hard to come by, but it just didn’t happen for us on the day.
“We just couldn’t finish it off. There are tight margins at this level, but I think performances have improved.
“That was an improvement over Italy, which was an improvement over the Wales game, so we’re going in the right direction, and just hoping it will be a good result this weekend.
“It’s a difficult job, but we have to do it and if we want to keep a run of wins together, we can’t come down from where we were last Sunday because Scotland have been playing very well and been quite unlucky. They’ll certainly be fresh, rested up, and wanting to get a win under their belts.”
And though his body is screaming otherwise right now, Ross underlined the importance of this weekend repeating the high-octane opening from Ireland to last Sunday’s game in Paris if the Scots are to be overcome.
“It’s critical to us at the weekend to start well. Too many times we’ve gone over to Paris and gone down 20 points before we know what’s happening. So it’s heartening we were able to execute that and play strongly and Tommy Bowe’s tries were very helpful.
“The Scots play a high-tempo game, they go through the phrases, they stretch you and drag you around the park so we have to do the same.”
Ross disagreed with provincial team-mate’s Rob Kearney’s post-match assertion that Ireland lacked killer instinct in closing out the game, having held 17-6 at half-time.
“I don’t think so,” he countered, “We had the instincts, it was just the execution that let us down at times. It’s fractions at this level.
“But no-one’s more annoyed about it than ourselves. We look at it as points lost rather than points gained. The great thing is there’s another rugby game this weekend, so we look forward to it in front of our home fans.”
Ross was contemplating a full-on encounter with fellow tighthead Euan Murray, who declines to play for Scotland on Sundays on religious grounds but is available for Saturday’s game.
Murray, however, is only on the bench as Scotland coach Andy Robinson makes one change from the side beaten at home to France two weeks ago. Nick De Luca, the Edinburgh centre, is promoted from the bench to a starting place with Sean Lamont switching from midfield to wing in place of his injured younger brother, Rory, who broke a leg against France.
The bench meanwhile sees three changes with Murray, fly-half Ruaridh Jackson and Castres wing/centre Max Evans replacing Ed Kalman, Duncan Weir and De Luca respectively.
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