Mike Ross may have felt like he was “sucking in passing seagulls” at Twickenham but he believes Ireland have to move past their lung-bursting defeat to England and focus on rebounding against Italy.
The Ireland tighthead prop will report for a mini-camp in Belfast tomorrow believing his side played better losing 13-10 to England last Saturday than they managed in trouncing Wales 28-6 a fortnight earlier and that the visit of the Italians to the Aviva Stadium in 11 days can see the men in green keep their Six Nations title bid on track.
“We are getting better every week and that probably was a better performance than two weeks ago but it just wasn’t quite enough, so as long as we can keep improving on the small things and keep growing as a team we will do well,” Ross said.
“Our next focus is to look at the Italian game and see what’s out there and see where we are.
“We still have a superior points differential at the moment. If we have a good game against Italy, get a win there then we’ll be in good shape going in for the French game. So we just have to focus on our next game against Italy because they only lost in the last 30 seconds against Scotland with a drop goal. They’ve pushed Wales hard in Cardiff and they’re going to be a big ask.
“The scrum gave France the hurry up a few times. They have good secondary shove and physically they’ve always had a good scrum so we’ll be focusing on that particularly next week.”
It was certainly a physically more demanding performance in an epic Test match at Twickenham that at one point saw Ireland having to defend one remarkably long period of English possession when the ball stayed in hand for four minutes and 20 seconds, while the 80 minutes left both teams virtually out on their feet.
“I was sitting down with some of the English lads after the game and they were talking about how quick the first half was, I think we both felt it,” Ross said. “You know when it is like that you just have to keep moving, keep scanning, keep on your feet even though you are sucking in passing seagulls, it becomes more and more of a mental test.
“It is exceptional,” Ross said of defending for that four minutes and 20 seconds period. “In training we try and do defensive sets for about three-and-a-half minutes, that would generally be the max you are asked to defend for. When it goes on for that long you are going to start to really struggle to keep your mind on what’s going on and not on how bloody bolloxed you are.”
Having taken a 10-3 lead early in the second half, Ireland then went 13-10 down and Ross praised England’s defensive effort for Ireland’s failure to make inroads into that lead in the final 20 minutes.
“Their defence was very good to be fair, they have good line speed and it was hard to find space out wide, you saw a couple of times we went for a cross-field kick, a testament to how well they are defending.
“It was pretty tough. When we went up by 10-3 after the first 10 minutes of the second half it was a real opportunity for us to push on and seal the game off, but it didn’t materialise.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved