Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# Ireland's caw
Seagulls be warned: Mike Ross ready for a 'street fight' against tough Italian pack
When the seagulls follow the prop…

A view of Ireland's Mike Ross' jersey Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

AFTER MISSING OUT on the first two matches in Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this year, Mike Ross admits he struggled through the Test in Twickenham against England.

“I felt like I was sucking in passing seagulls at one point,” he jokes with a jet engine chest rising as he breathes in.

Seagulls on the pitch Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Another half in Leinster blue last weekend has taken him a little further along the road to full match fitness and you sense a definite tinge of relief in his voice as he looks forward to testing himself against the nuances of Italian scrummaging having huddled in a corner of his house to watch the loss to France.

“My wife scheduled my son’s birthday party for the same time,” the Corkman explains before admitting a retreat to technology and rugby.

“I don’t know what she expected to happen, but I kind of ended up on my phone watching the game and being of no help whatsoever. But I’d had a few dads around me so it wasn’t so bad.”

Even though he was ‘one of the dads’ that day, the flow of the game ensured he wouldn’t be swept away by euphoria. Ross was a frustrated spectator like the rest of us, and was attempting to pin-point the errors in real time.

I think we were all frustrated. We (players) are all fans of rugby too first and foremost too. That’s why we got involved in it. We were pretty gutted by the result.

“Not really much you can do about it. You are probably watching it a bit more analytically than most people.

“You kinda know yourself what is supposed to be happening. You would be like: ‘is he doing his role here?’ ‘Is he going where he is supposed to be?’ ‘What play is this? ‘ ‘What are they doing here?’ You would have a bit more of an idea what’s coming next than you average punter.”

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He knows what’s coming from Italy too, though getting the upper hand against them is ordinarily much easier said than done, especially in Ross’ area of expertise – the scrum.

Mike Ross Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“They don’t tend to hook the ball. There is only one thing they can do which his walk over it. That means they have to go forward.

This is putting a lot of pressure on themselves to go forward and it is a challenge for us to stop them dong that. You might see the ball sitting there for 15-20 seconds.”

Even though the Azzurri come to Dublin without Martin Castrogiovanni or Matias Aguero, whether you’re crouched and bound with a ton weight on your shoulders or watching from the stand with a cold beer, that length of time scrummaging is a tough period to get through. And Ross knows the pressure won’t end at the set-piece.

“They have a good pack. You know that Italy is going to be a street fight.

It is probably one of the toughest games you will face as a forward because they will attack you there all day long. You have to be on top of your game to keep them out.”

The seagulls of south Dublin would be well-advised to steer clear of the Aviva Stadium from 13.30 on Saturday.

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