Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Ireland prop Mike Ross isn't dwelling on 2012's painful memories

Tight-head says Twickenham horror has no bearing on Saturday's clash

All in hand: Mike Ross believes England will play with an aggressive style

WITH England rocked by the loss of tight-head Dan Cole, suddenly Ireland's scrum has begun to look a lot more imposing ahead of Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham.

But yesterday at Carton House, Mike Ross – Cole's Irish counterpart – was intent on keeping things in perspective.

"We kinda look at what is coming in," he said. "Dan Cole is out and we knew they were not going to have Alex Corbisiero available to them.

"We didn't expect Dan Cole to be missing this weekend, but at the same time (Dave) Wilson came back last weekend just in time. And if you look at his form during the autumn internationals he is probably pushing Dan Cole pretty hard for a spot. I think he did get the spot for the Argentina game.

"So we're not really seeing it as big a loss as it could have been."

With England boasting the greatest number of adult players of any nation in the world, Ross – who played across the water for Harlequins before returning to Ireland – was asked if the old enemy's apparent lack of depth in some positions surprised him. "A small bit," he replied. But the real issue, he felt, comes down to a number of injuries rather than a threadbare squad.

"Their problem is losing a few guys – that has taxed their resources a bit," Ross pointed out.

"There is a young lad playing at Harlequins, Will Collier, who any time I've seen him I was pretty impressed.

"He looks like a good prospect for the future, but he is out injured.

"There is Paul Doran Jones – he is just back from injury, too. At Northampton you have Salesi Ma'afu starting ahead of Tom Mercey, so that's not an option. You look at Sarries (Saracens) and they have got Matt Stevens, who is retired from international rugby.

"They do have 12 clubs around (offering) different options, although (at) some of those (there) are foreigners starting, others where lads are injured."

His depth of knowledge of English number threes provoked a question as to how much time he spends studying them?

"Not a huge amount," he replied. "I just watch games like the Harlequins games because I used to play for them and I still have friends there over there, so I would always keep an eye on how there were doing. I just happen to see them going during the games against Racing and Llanelli so I got to see what they had.

"It's something I do like to keep an eye on, myself. If there is an injury, and there is a guy straight in there, it is good to have an idea what he is like."

Not surprisingly, he rates England's scrum.

"They are big aggressive boys," he said. "I know Joe Mahler from Harlequins. He was in the Academy when I was there and he was always burning the ear off us, like a senior front-row, for tips and advice. Eventually it worked too well – he turfed the lad that was there, so! But, he was a strong lad."

His expectation is that the berth vacated by Cole's misfortune will be filled by Bath's Wilson of whom Ross remarked: "Big chest on him."

The English hooker, Northampton's Dylan Hartley, is another front row warrior the Leinster prop has faced on a few occasions

"He brings an aggressive edge to it and he's always chirping away in the middle of it," Ross said, letting the rest of the world in on what goes on when these men lock horns.

"Nothing offensive. He does talk a fair bit to his front row and keeps them under control."

And pops up the odd time, too?

"Yeah that has happened," Ross agreed, before offering a more technical insight by saying: "He really attacks the join between the tight head and the hooker to fracture that. Once that's done it's open season on you."

Saturday will see Cian Healy, Rory Best and Ross create history for championship appearances by a front row trio.

"I heard that last week," he smiled. "Yeah it's a good thing to have, a feather in the cap. You look at the front row they had before – the Pontypool front row; not bad company."

With the whole of Ireland crossing fingers that the scrum-time ghost of 2012 will be well and truly exorcised on Saturday evening (England crushed the Irish side 30-9), Ross insisted no-one in Joe Schmidt's camp has spent time worrying about what happened.

"You wouldn't want to think about that to be honest with you," he said. "There's nothing to be gained from that; it was different times, different personnel and different rules."

And hopefully a very different outcome, too, this time.

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