Leinster's Mike Ross chats Heineken Cup, leaders at Leinster and his passion for science
We managed to squeeze in a few questions with Mike Ross at the Aviva Stadium as Leinster chase for silverware on all fronts.
Ireland and Leinster’s Mike Ross is a strong, durable unit with a lot of brain to back up the brawn. Nowhere was this more evidenced than in how he spectacularly helped turn the tide in the scrum against Northampton in the Heineken Cup Final last year.
Not surprisingly Samsung were anxious to get him on board for their nifty, new nuclear fallout-proof Samsung Galaxy Xcover.
JOE caught up with the big man ahead of a few big weeks for Leinster Rugby at the launch.
JOE: Mike in the past season you have marked yourself out as essential to Leinster and Ireland’s success, particularly in the scrum. Is that a burden to bear or something you thrive under?
MR: There’s always a weight of expectation when playing for Ireland or Leinster and I don’t think being expected to lock down the scrum is any different.
It is part of my job description and something that I should be able to take for granted that anytime for Ireland or Leinster it has to be taken as given that the scrummaging is good enough.
So I don’t see it as a particularly heavy responsibility.
JOE: Leinster have been rightly praised for their back play – I’m thinking of Rob Kearney’s second try against Cardiff, but how much has that been down to set plays too and the discipline of the forwards?
MR: It’s very important to have a good set piece because you need that quality ball to launch your backs and I think the fact that our backs have been scoring some quality tries this season is a testament to the quality of our set pieces.
It’s something we work really hard on and whether it’s the scrum or lineout we love working hard to give our backs that platform because you see the results.
JOE: Despite having some big players unavailable you have managed to build so much momentum this season. You’re top of the RaboDirect Pro 12 and now have a big match coming up in Bordeaux in the Heineken Cup semi-finals. How have Leinster managed it?
SR: A good squad.
It’s pretty essential in this day and age that you have a good squad so you can rotate players in and out and keep it fresh.
If you look through our squad there is a good second and even third pack there to keep things going when others are flagging or you need a bit of freshening up.
SR: Despite a short time with Leinster relative to others, you are 32 and one of the older heads in the squad. With the retirement of Shane and Brian O’Driscoll injured there seems to have been a transition this season, but a lot of the younger guys like Sean O’Brien and Jonathon Sexton seem to have stepped up as leaders. There seems to be a lot of candidates for future captains there?
SR: There certainly are a lot of leaders there.
You mentioned Sean O’Brien there, there’s also Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip they’re also still in their mid-twenties.
There’s certainly a good spread of leadership throughout all ages and it’s important as you need that in a squad because when things get difficult you need leaders to step up and make a difference like Jonny did in the Heineken Cup final last year.
JOE: You’re here today to help promote the Samsung Galaxy Xcover which is described in the press release as a particularly durable piece of tech, but the release also mentions that you have a degree in biotechnology. How did you manage to fit that in with a professional rugby career?
MR: Well the short answer is I didn’t because I wasn’t a professional rugby player when I was doing it. I only turned professional when I was 26.
My parents always stressed that it was very important to get a degree under my belt and I always liked science when I was growing up so I decided to a biotechnology degree because it sounded very interesting and it was.
JOE: Is it something you might go back to down the line when you finish up?
MR: I wouldn’t rule it out you know, but I think a science degree prepares you for things in a lot of different ways. It teaches you the value of critical thinking and analysing a problem and breaking it down.
JOE: Oddly enough that sounds an awful lot like what you have to do when playing in the forwards…
MR: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah! I can say it’s been quite helpful to me in analysing opposition scrums.
JOE: There are a lot of guys that are quite talented outside of rugby in that Leinster squad over the years. A couple of doctors in Emmet Byrne and Felipe Contepomi, I think Shane Horgan is studying to be a barrister… How is that so many in that squad are talented in so many aspects of their lives?
MR: You don’t make it to this level by being stupid. You have to have a certain degree of mental nous.
I think a couple of lads at the moment are doing part-time degrees. I think Kevin McLaughlin and Eoin Reddan are doing exams for a finance degree or something. We are full-time professional players, but we do get down-time that we can use to our advantage.
The unfortunate thing about rugby is that you have to stop playing it one day. Unlike footballers we’re not going to be set up for life so we need to find an alternative mode of employment.
So it’s a case of keep tipping away to prepare you for life after that.
JOE: I suppose it just really speaks to the ambition of the Leinster Squad which has seen you be successful over the last few years extends to outside the realm of sport…
MR: I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of successful guys out there when they retire. If they can turn that drive and commitment that saw them become professional rugby players towards their own careers.
JOE: In relation to the phone today. Have you ever had any gadget-mishaps like we all have of dropping a phone, losing it on a night out or something like that?
MR: I tend to be very protective of my gadgets; I usually have a cover on them or something like that…
That said my one-year old did an absolute job on my tablet last week! He knocked it onto the floor and smashed it so I was pretty sore for while after that.
I gave him the Xcover last week just to test it out and he was throwing it out of his high-chair, he was knocking it on the floor, he chucked it into the sink and there wasn’t a bother to it and it still survived.
JOE: It probably couldn’t have had a more durable test than that! Finally what is the mood in the Leinster camp like ahead of the next few weeks?
MR: We’re pretty positive. We know from now on in it is cup rugby so we can’t afford to slip up.
So there’s a bit more pressure there, but it makes training more focused and more interesting.
The Samsung Galaxy Xcover is available from eMobile, Meteor and 3 from free on bill pay