Leinster prop Mike Ross is determined to make the most of a golden opportunity when he starts for Ireland in Italy this weekend.
Ross has been handed his first international start for the Six Nations trip to Rome following an impressive first-half of the season with last year’s Magners League Grand Finalists.
The 31-year-old has featured in all bar one of Leinster’s 13 Magners League games so far this term, helping the Dubliners surge into the Play-Off places after a slow start to the season.
Ross’ scrummaging abilities have won him plenty of plaudits since his move to the Magners League from Harlequins in 2009 and now the Cork-born front rower is hoping to make the same impact on the international stage.
"There's certainly an element of pressure, especially as it's my first Six Nations appearance," said Ross, who will win his third cap on Saturday afternoon.
"The scrum concept is a strange one – if you're a prop that's what you're examined on. It's a bit like a hooker not hitting any of his targets in the line-out or a second row not taking any.
"I take pride in my scrummaging. It's something there has been a lot of focus placed on in recent seasons. It's good to have a strong facet of one's game that is recognised.
"I've been given my chance now and I have to take it."
Ross knows first-hand how seriously the Italians take the setpiece having been on the wrong end of a 29-13 scoreline when Leinster traveled to Benetton Treviso in September.
And with the Italian scrum already having given the Australians a tough time in the November internationals, Ross is expecting a stiff examination at the Stadio Flaminio.
"Playing Italy in Rome is certainly a measure of where you are," added Ross.
"The Italians have a very good scrum, they're very aggressive and very strong. There's Martin Castrogiovanni, who does the business week in and week out…and there's Andrea Lo Cicero and Salvatore Perugini, who are strong men and no shrinking violets.
"You know that if you don't front up in that area, there's going to be a long afternoon ahead of you.
"In their match against Australia last November they just kept it in for five, six, 10 seconds, trying to force it. Eventually the Australians wilted, Italy drove over and got their penalty.
"We really need to step up to the mark in that area. If they sense a weakness there, they'll just go for it all day and won't let up."