Ireland prop Mike Ross is eyeing up a new two-year contract to take him into his late 30s and with the shortage of Test-ready tightheads in these parts there may not be a better time to ask for it.
The Leinster front rower turns 35 next month but never have his services been more greatly in demand with regular back-up in the Ireland number three jersey Marty Moore out injured along with newly-qualified Kiwi Nathan White, leaving the capped but still inexperienced pair of Rodney Ah You and Stephen Archer next in line.
Their lack of Test exposure meant it was vital for head coach Joe Schmidt to press Ross into service last weekend against South Africa and even though the Cork man had not played for a month due to a groin injury he racked up 74 minutes on his return before giving way to Ah You.
All of which gives him a stronger hand as his talks over a new deal with the IRFU continue with Ross more than happy to carry on at the coalface for another two seasons beyond this campaign.
“I want to get that sorted,” Ross said of the contract talks. “I wouldn’t mind two more years.
“You want to achieve your market value and you also want to be happy with the deal you’re doing.
“There’s a balance to be struck there too, obviously, between achieving your value and where you’re happy, because that’s a huge part of it too.”
Ross, who came to prominence at Harlequins in the English Premiership, said he would not be averse to a move overseas.
“I would never rule anything out but I’m happy here and we just won a Six Nations championship and we’ve a World Cup to look forward to, so...”
A day after the IRFU announced that Rob Kearney had signed a new deal, earning the praise of the full-back for the way they had improved the negotiating process for player contracts, Ross also applauded the governing body for its progress in the area.
“You’re dealing with one person now, it seems to be. (IRFU Performance Director) David Nucifora is the main man, he handles that sort of thing. So that simplifies matters a bit.
“I’m probably talking earlier than I would have been in previous seasons. They’ve taken stuff from previous years on board and it’s for the better.”
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek certainly believes Ross is still important to the national team set-up. He commended the tighthead’s performance against the Springboks and suggested there was still plenty more to come.
“He did really well, coming on and getting 70 minutes, and that just shows that as long as he’s getting certain key parts of his game good then he could play for as long as he wants,” Feek said yesterday.
“Brad Thorn turns 40 next year and I know that a lot of those older guys are starting to see that (as a target). As long as it’s professional footy and you do all your things right, who knows?
“I think for Rossy it’s all about each game and just making the most out of all of those, because sooner or later there’s going to be a whole load of guys banging on that door coming ‘I want that number three jersey’, and that’s what we want to happen. And hopefully in six months’ time we’ll be starting to have that.”
Ross said the 29-15 victory over the Springboks would not prompt the Ireland squad to get ahead of themselves as they prepare for this Sunday’s Guinness Series Test against Georgia.
“I don’t think we’re getting carried away. The South Africans probably weren’t at their best. If you look at the way they played against the All Blacks to beat them, there are not a lot of teams that can do that.
“For us, the way we executed our scores, the way we worked in practice, to see them come off like that is pretty satisfying.
“(But) certainly there will be no laurels resting after the South Africa game.
“We need to be accurate, and we need to put to right what went wrong and really give a platform for our backs to work off of.
“It’s not bad but we are certainly targeting winning all our games, regardless of whose picked this weekend there’s a big onus on them to keep the momentum going.
“Whoever is picked for this will be in contention for Australia too. It’s a big game in all ways, nobody wants to be the first to lose to Georgia at home.”
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