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Ross on Munster rivalry: 'You fight more in a family than you do with strangers'

The Leinster prop is expecting a fierce encounter at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Mike Ross speaks to the media at Rosemount.
Mike Ross speaks to the media at Rosemount.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MIKE ROSS HAS put the intensity of an inter-pro against Munster up there between a Heineken Cup knock-out tie and a Test match.

The Leinster tight-head was back in the training mix out at rain-soaked Rosemount this afternoon but seemed pleased to be back in familiar surroundings after seven brutal weeks of Six Nations action. Ross featured once, off the bench, for Leinster during the Six Nations window and started each of Ireland’s five games in a successful campaign.

The Cork native is hoping to be involved from the outset on Saturday as Leinster take on his home province, a side he spent a frustrating season with some nine years ago. “I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “Generally, you find, the 60-80 minutes [period] really drains but with myself and Marty [Moore] working the way we did, it kept us in pretty good nick.”

“You generally have two full sets of internationals in either pack,” Ross added. “It’s pretty quick, it’s very intense and everybody is pretty much climbing into each other more because, as everyone knows, you fight more in a family than you do with strangers. We all know each other pretty well at this stage.”

Jamie Heaslip and Matt O'Conor 24/3/2014 Jamie Heaslip calls the training ground shots as coach Matt O'Connor looks on. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While Leinster had 15 players in the matchday 23 for the winning Six Nations finalé against France, Munster’s representation was three. While a number of front row forwards have emerged under Rob Penney’s stewardship with the southern province, Leinster provided the propping quartet from the first to last whistle of Ireland’s campaign. Ross expects the Munster pack to be bristling for a battle on Saturday

“Every time the provinces play each other it is a mini trial of sorts,” he said. “I’m sure there will be lads that are pretty annoyed they missed out but that always comes any time you [take on] your rivals for an international place. Someone is going to miss out so there is always a few points to prove there.”

He continued, “I think [Dave] Kilcoyne and [James] Cronin are pushing each other pretty hard. Stephen Archer has come on a lot with BJ [Botha]. Whoever they pick is going to give us a big battle. Unfortunately Mike Sherry is out with a cruciate [injury] but Damien Varley is probably one of the best scrummaging hookers around so it hasn’t really weakened them in that area.”

Leinster team huddle with Brian O'Driscoll in the centre 24/3/2014 The Leinster squad gather for a team talk. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Eight days after the interprovincial clash, Leinster will travel to Toulon to take on the might of the reigning Heineken Cup champions and their star-studded pack. “In terms of preparation for the quarter final of the Heineken Cup,” said Ross, “this is perfect. You get to see, pretty quick, where you are. Maybe with an easier game you wouldn’t know where you are.

“[A win] helps but sometimes it can go against you. Munster beat us down in Thomond before the Heineken Cup at the start of the season then lost to Edinburgh. It does help but you’ve got to be careful with the way you use it. You take the good from it and you move on.”

And, just in case any extra motivation was needed, a Leinster win, and favourable results elsewhere in the league, could see Matt O’Connor’s men go seven points clear at the top of the league with four games to play. “We’re at the top of the table and we want to stay there because, as you know, the winner gets a home semi-final… [Top spot] doesn’t guarantee that home final but it is a pretty good carrot.”

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Patrick McCarry

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