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Australian front row a formidable unit, warns Mike Ross despite Lions mauling

The Leinster prop has predicted a bright international future for teammate Jack McGrath.

Mike Ross is in line for his 33rd Ireland cap on Saturday.
Mike Ross is in line for his 33rd Ireland cap on Saturday.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE LIONS SCRUM was so dominant in their third Test victory over Australia, this summer, that red shirts were suddenly knocking on simple passes inside the Wallaby half.

Both packs would scrum down and, second later, a penalty would be awarded to the Lions. It happened four times in the opening 25 minutes, with Leigh Halfpenny slotting over three penalties. The Australian scrum was such a liability that day that the visitors were gaining three points nearly every time they spilled a ball forward.

Five months have passed since the Lions cinched that series 2-1 but there has been no respite for the Wallaby front row. They treaded water against South Africa, sank without a trace against the All Blacks and had their heads dunked by England, on 2 November, at Twickenham.

Pack pride was restored in the 50-20 win over Italy at the weekend but Ireland, on the back of a morale-boosting victory against Samoa, will be targeting James Slipper, Ben Alexander and company at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland prop Mike Ross has urged caution ahead of Saturday’s encounter. He said, “They’re very good at retaining their own ball. If you look at the statistics, most of the time they are [penalised] it is on the opposition’s ball.

“They’ve a lot of experienced. They do get some stick but a lot of that is unjustified. I was watching them against England and they were unlucky a few times. I was only watching the Italy game [on Monday] morning and they got sanctioned a few times but still put 50 points on the Italians.” Ross added:

I’m not expecting it to be easy this weekend, by any means. They do have good scrummagers and a heavy pack. It’s going to be a tough battle this weekend.”

Ross paid tribute to the ‘very unassuming’ Jack McGrath, who was named man-of-the-match at the weekend, and predicted a bright international future for the Leinster prop. “I’ve seen him come up for the past three or four years and it is not a surprise to any of us to see him coming through,” Ross commented.

imageWill Genia attempts to extricate a ball from the scrum. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Head coach Joe Schmidt criticised his team for giving up easy possession at the weekend. With backline operators such as Israel Folau, Will Genia and Quade Cooper to call on, Ross called on his teammates to cut down on needless errors.

“If you’ve got Genia and Cooper operating on front-foot ball it makes things easier for them and difficult for us,” he said. “It’s the same as any game, we have to go after them at the setpiece when we can.”

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Patrick McCarry

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