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Ross targets back-to-back titles


Mike Ross, pictured, believes securing back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles would hand Ireland a "huge lift" for the World Cup

Mike Ross, pictured, believes securing back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles would hand Ireland a "huge lift" for the World Cup

Mike Ross, pictured, believes securing back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles would hand Ireland a "huge lift" for the World Cup

Mike Ross has admitted claiming back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles for the first time since 1949 would hand Ireland a "huge lift" for Rugby World Cup 2015.

Tighthead prop Ross conceded several of Ireland's veteran stars could have blown their last chance at a second career Grand Slam with the 23-16 defeat in Wales last weekend.

The 35-year-old hinted he himself may be among that crop, with captain Paul O'Connell bound to be in the same category, given he has previously said he could retire immediately after the autumn World Cup.

Leinster prop Ross and 35-year-old Munster talisman O'Connell are both contracted until summer 2016, but Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam was their first since 1948 - a rarity not lost on Joe Schmidt's squad.

"It would be huge, it would be a huge one for us," said Ross on the chance of retaining the title.

"It would certainly give us a huge lift going into the World Cup. It is something we really want as a squad.

"There was a lot of disappointment in that dressing room after that Welsh game because for some lads, when is the next opportunity going to come around for a Grand Slam again? You don't know."

Ireland can still retain the Six Nations crown with victory in Scotland on Saturday, with points difference likely to decide the silverware's destination for the second year running.

Jack Kyle spearheaded Ireland's last crop to retain the championship title, backing up the 1948 Grand Slam to hold on to the tournament trophy a year later.

Ireland's defeat to Wales was their first in 11 Tests and just their third under Kiwi boss Schmidt, but Ross admitted the impact hit home.

Ireland will be expected to push for their best-ever World Cup showing in England this autumn, but Ross believes a positive Six Nations finale will boost confidence ahead of a lengthy summer build-up.

England top the current standings on points difference, but Ross insisted Ireland will fight tooth and nail to retain their title.

"It's hugely important: it would be a great achievement for this squad if we could do that, the back-to-back championships," said Ross.

"But at the same time we can't get ahead of ourselves, the main focus is to beat Scotland first and foremost and any number of points after that would be a bonus."

Head coach Schmidt's men stole the Six Nations title from under England's noses with victory over France in Paris last year, and Ross is determined Ireland deny Stuart Lancaster's men, and fellow contenders Wales, once more.

England thrashed Italy 52-11 in Rome in the early kick-off, only to watch Ireland edge past France 22-20 in Paris to claim the title on points difference.

Ross conceded Ireland would not want to be on the other side of that fence this weekend, with England's Twickenham clash against France kicking off last.

"It will probably be a bit like it was for England last year, you know?" said Ross, of Ireland likely having to watch England-France with fingers crossed.

"I suppose they were really shouting when that ball went forward in the Stade de France (to deny France a winning try), I guess that must have been really gutting for them.

"I suppose we'll have an idea of where Wales are after the Italy game, so we'll know what we need to do there, I think England have a tough job on their hands with France.

"France look like they are coming good - thankfully! - s o they will be a tough team to beat in Twickenham. But that's no good at all if we get beaten by Scotland."

Ireland botched a hefty overlap in Wales when Cian Healy ploughed through the middle only to knock forward, a missed opportunity symptomatic of unfulfilled dominance.

Despite the attacking shortcomings in Cardiff, Ross warned Ireland will not release the shackles in Scotland in overblown response.

"We are not going to go out and play Sevens, that's for sure," he said.

"I can't do that anyway. But we don't want to throw it around from the start.

"If you do that and make a mistake, before you know it one of their fast ball carriers will be scooting up the pitch.

"We are not going to just play wide for the sake of it."