'He works his absolute arse off': Ross out to help Van der Flier make a debut to remember

Mike Ross tells us about his monstrous Leinster team-mate and how he’d never willingly hang up his Ireland jersey.

‘WE ALL REMEMBER our first caps,” says Mike Ross. And the tighthead’s must be a little fresher in the memory than most.

Given that he’s such a solid cornerstone in the Irish pack it’s still odd to think that the Corkman had to wait until he was 29 to finally don the green of Ireland.

Mike Ross, Rory Best and Jack McGrath Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

His debut came as a replacement in the post-Grand Slam tour of North America. He came off the bench to replace Tony Buckley in the second half and packed down alongside a man who would become a familiar ally in the front row, Rory Best.

“We remember how the lads around us looked after us that day and we want to make sure we do the same,” Ross continues.

We want to make the memory of their first cap as good as it can be, because if you can get a win over there on your first cap it will live long in your memory.”

Ross is speaking about all three men who are likely to make their Test bow in Twickenham. But clearly, he knows Leinster team-mate Josh van der Flier the longest of the three tyros. Knew him even before he became the ‘monster’ that will get to grips with Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and James Haskell this weekend.

Josh van der Flier Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“He was always pretty good, he just got a couple of injuries, and at the end of last season he took some time off after a bad concussion and he just worked his arse off in the gym.

“He became this absolute monster.

“I was looking at him then in pre-season going: ‘oh my God!’

“And he was soon delivering on it. He works his absolute arse off every game. He’s a very good chop-tackler, a pest around the rucks and he picks a pretty good line.”

That chop-tackling (which prompts Ross to calling the 22-year-old ‘Chopper, and then ‘Josh van der Chopper’) will be a valuable asset for Ireland as they set about limiting the threat of Vunipola – the tournament’s stand-out player so far. Not that you’re ever likely to hear Van der Flier gloating about his exploits.

“He’s pretty quiet off the pitch, wouldn’t be too much of a talker, but he certainly allows his actions do his talking.

“When he wants, I imagine as time goes on, he might start opening his mouth more.

“We’ve got so much competition in the Leinster back row first and foremost, the fact he’s come through that will really stand to him.”

Mike Ross Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“A great option to have, Tommy O’Donnell’s a bit unlucky too, but we’re lucky to have both of them at the moment.”

The sound of Ross speaking about debuts and how the old hands should steer the young bucks through led to a question about Ross’ own future in the green jersey.

Might the end be in sight for the prop just turned 36? Absolutely, unequivocally: no.

“To be honest, I’d never ever retire internationally.

They’d probably have to drag me out kicking and screaming… the decision will be made for me, put it like that.

“I’ll play as long as they pick me and every time I pull on the green jersey is a blessing.”

He waited long enough for cap number one, no sense in settling after he picks up a 57th.

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