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Ireland prop Ross: 'That's Irish sport for you - you're either a hero or a villain!'

The 34-year-old underlined his importance to Ireland during the November Tests.

Ross and his Ireland teammates celebrate victory over the Wallabies.
Ross and his Ireland teammates celebrate victory over the Wallabies.
Image: ©INPHO

EXPECTATION LEVELS AROUND Ireland’s chances of success in the 2015 Six Nations and World Cup have soared after a clean sweep of the November Tests, but those within Joe Schmidt’s group will keep focused on the details.

Victories over South Africa and Australia for Schmidt’s side, as well as a hard-working success against Georgia, have seen Ireland rise into the top three of the World Rugby rankings.

Michael Cheika pointed to Ireland as a “big threat” for the World Cup after watching his Wallabies come up short in Dublin on Saturday, and there is danger of the optimism on Irish soil spilling over.

That’s Irish sport for you,” smiled tighthead prop Mike Ross after beating Australia, “you’re either a hero or a villain!

“There is expectation on us but no more then we are putting on ourselves. We know the level of performance that is required now and we have to deliver on that every single time, otherwise there is a guy waiting to take your spot.

“We know we need to get our own stuff right. Most of the pressure is from external sources. We would dismiss that within ourselves because it is not much use for us to worry about that.

Devin Toner and Mike Ross Devin Toner and Ross have been pillars for Ireland in the last 12 months. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It [the expectation] doesn’t help, but we know if we get our own game plan right and execute well, we give ourselves every chance of winning.”

Irish supporters have understandably grown in belief after this month’s success in Dublin, but Ross admits that there has been a similar boost of confidence within Schmidt’s squad.

The manner in which Ireland held on during the endgame against the Wallabies, a situation in which they had caved against New Zealand a year ago, was one of the major factors.

We’ve proven to ourselves that we can deliver at the top level when it matters,” said Ross.

“We need to continue just doing that. There is a big Six Nations, plenty of other nations that will be looking to take the Six Nations title and we will be looking to defend it.

“Later on, the biggest tournament in rugby, the World Cup. There are plenty of spots up for grabs and everyone will have to perform.”

Ross himself completed 80 minutes of the win over the Wallabies, a rarity for modern tighthead props. Add in 46 minutes against Georgia, as well as 73 versus the Springboks, and we get an idea of Ross’ ongoing importance to Ireland.

Rodney Ah You Connacht's Rodney Ah You has played back-up to Ross this month. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That the 34-year-old had spent a month out of action prior to this series of Tests with a groin/abductor issue makes his accumulated game time all the more impressive.

“It’s been a while since I’ve played 80 minutes, so thankfully I just managed to have enough in the tank to get through it,” said Ross. “I could do with a drip tonight, but I felt pretty good at the end!

It’s been a year since I’ve played 80 minutes. It was good to get it under the belt and good to know I can still do that.

“I’m pretty happy but I wouldn’t have made it without the superb work the physios and medical staff have been doing with me. They sent me away to the Santry Sports Clinic for three or four weeks of intense rehab and that really helped bring me on and get me back into it.

“Without that I wouldn’t be sitting here. The level of the medical care available to us is first-class and it really has shown that, despite the injuries, they have been getting guys onto the field.”

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Murray Kinsella

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