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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Evergreen Mike Ross not prepared to fall down the pecking order just yet

The veteran prop is in line to start Leinster’s clash with Montpellier on Sunday.

Ross arriving for training alongside Sean Cronin on Tuesday.
Ross arriving for training alongside Sean Cronin on Tuesday.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

FOR SO LONG Mike Ross has been an ever-present in the Ireland and Leinster scrum so it comes as little surprise to learn that he’s found it strange being second in the pecking order.

The emergence of Tadhg Furlong has seen 36-year-old Ross drop to the bench for the early parts of the season, a position he hasn’t found himself in too many times throughout his career.

However, the Cork native will likely get his chance to remind Leo Cullen of his enduring worth when Leinster face Montpellier this Sunday with Furlong a major injury doubt.

“He’s done really well for himself and it’s a strange sort of surprise for me that it takes some time for someone to come and displace me, but I have an opportunity this week and I’d like to think we don’t really know the pecking order if it’s final,” Ross said of the competition.

“He’s definitely one who’s been pushing me and I’ve been trying to push him so hopefully we’ll have a similar type of relationship as Jack [McGrath] and Cian [Healy].

“That’s a good position for the club to have four lads pushing each other on, especially with Straussy on the way back and James Tracy and Nugget (Sean Cronin) giving each other a good shove in training so scrum sessions are fairly hotly contested and it’s great preparation for the weekend.”

Mike Ross Ross speaking to the media yesterday. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ross came off the bench shortly after half-time in the Pool 4 opener against Castres last weekend as Leinster romped to a bonus-point win — but the Ireland international knows this week will be an even stiffer challenge.

“We’ll have to be better,” he admits. “They’ll probably be a bit more composed than Castres were. They played each other last weekend, so we’ll have a look at how that weekend.

“A lot of the scrums in the Top 14 can turn into a bit of a mess, it’s just go for it by whatever means necessary and the refs just go with it a lot of the time so we have to be ready for that ideology.

“It’s a bit of a bear pit. I think they’ve lost just one game at home to date in the Top 14. They’re up near the top (third) of the table. They’re a quality side and they’re coached by Jake White, so there’s a strong South African influence throughout the side.”

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A second straight European victory for the eastern province would put them in pole position to advance to the knockout stages ahead of the international break.

After stressing the importance of a winning start, Ross and the Leinster players know how significant a trip to the Altrad Stadium is in the context of this campaign. The big games keep coming.

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong and Mike Ross A bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The thing is French teams are 20 per cent more switched on at home,” he added.

“We see a lot of the teams in the Top 14 are unbeaten at home but lose all their away games. So anytime you go over to their home patch you can expect a fairly hostile reception.

“They have the brass band playing in the crowd and the crowd gets worked up and very energetic, especially when the home team is going well. I think for some of the lads it’s their first time in France so it’ll be a new experience.

“So it’s not going to be an easy ask but we know if we win this it puts us in a pole position to qualify from our pool.”

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Ryan Bailey

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