Ross well placed to run rule over opposition props

Over last weekend 13 of the 15 props that featured for provinces were Irish qualified

Leinster and Ireland prop Mike Ross:  “It’s very fine margins get you selected at this level.”  Photograph: Inpho

Leinster and Ireland prop Mike Ross: “It’s very fine margins get you selected at this level.” Photograph: Inpho

Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 01:00

Slamming into the provincial ceiling they may be but Munster are growing loosehead props again.

James Cronin started in Perpignan last December, before Dave Kilcoyne wrestled back the number one jersey for the dismantling of Gloucester.

Cronin, at 23 is two years Kilcoyne’s junior, arrived into the Kingsholm fray on the hour, swallowing the ball for a flawless open-field turnover.

Banging that drum some more, Mike Ross was asked about the pair of them in comparison to Jack McGrath.

“I think they’re pretty close,” said Ross. “I mean it’s very fine margins get you selected at this level. I think they’ve been pushing each other pretty hard. I’ve been watching them over the past season.

“I think it was James Cronin’s debut last season and it’s testament to how far he has come that he’s pushing Dave Kilcoyne . . . so he’s probably getting a bit annoyed because he’s just got his arse in the chair and some young fella is trying to push him out of it but that’s the way it is.”

‘Honorary Leinster man’
That’s not the way it was when Ross was waiting behind John Hayes.

“I’m probably an honorary Leinster man by now . . . Of course, I grew up with Munster rugby so I know what they’re about,” said Ross.

Nobody’s disputing the rise of McGrath this year. It’s merely a case of accentuating the positive rather than the negative.

Kilcoyne was blooded at Test level by Declan Kidney until Joe Schmidt saw greater value in McGrath. Not a Leinster or Munster issue, just a matter of opinion and progress.

The pecking order for Irish looseheads is Healy, McGrath, Kilcoyne then Cronin. Connacht’s Denis Buckley is arguably next as Tom Court may go the way of Jamie Hagan by exiling himself to London Irish next season.

Jack O’Connell is another forced to depart, joining Bristol, having been bumped out of the queue by Michael Bent’s shift across the scrum.

On the weekend just past – with Ross, Healy and McGrath on ice – 13 of the 15 props that featured for provinces were Irish qualified. New Zealanders John Afoa and Nathan White being the odd men out but the latter becomes qualified via residency soon.

Despite being on the treadmill almost all of this campaign, besides a calf strain, Marty Moore’s progress leaves him less exposed to those killer minutes.

“Actually I feel pretty good because I haven’t actually needed to play 80 minutes yet this season,” said Moore.

Amid all of this it’s easy to forget on Saturday the Clontarf club man faces the province that didn’t recognise his value. A time when he “was never picked for any representative teams,” a time when it seemed like Hayes was immortal. An altogether different time.

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