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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 23 May, 2018

The best is yet to come for Rhys Ruddock, says proud father Mike

It has taken five seasons for the 23-year-old to become an overnight success.

Rhys Ruddock will be hoping to start in Leinster's back row on Saturday.
Rhys Ruddock will be hoping to start in Leinster's back row on Saturday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AS HIS FATHER, Mike, points out, it is easy to forget that Rhys Ruddock is only 23.

The flanker made his Leinster debut a little under five years ago and, almost as quick, was earmarked as a mainstay in their back row. As a 21-year-old, in his third season with the province, he appeared 21 times.

Last season was disrupted by injuries but his reason for missing out on a block of Leinster games have been encouraging. Ruddock was called in to train with the Ireland squad in February and March. He won his second Test cap, four years after his first, in Brian O’Driscoll’s Lansdowne Road swansong.

Mike Ruddock has coached his son at U20 level and is delighted to see the starts coming thick and fast at provincial level. He said, “There is a perception that Rhys has been around a while but, of course, he is still only 23. He’s had 80-odd caps for Leinster so that’s a nice little apprenticeship.

You’d like to think there will be plenty more caps. He’s only young and, if he stays clear of injury, he’ll kick on and I think we’ll see the best of him. He’s enjoyed getting that run of games this year and it has been good for him.”

Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has been shorn of Kevin McLaughlin’s services for lengthy periods this season but, even when the duo were both fit, Ruddock has earned his coach’s trust. Sean O’Brien started at blindside against Edinburgh last week but the former St Mary’s man will be confident of starting in the No.6 jersey against Ulster on Saturday.

Ulster’s back row unit will be definitely without the services of Nick Williams, while Stephen Ferris’ ankle injury looks to have ruled him out. Leinster, on the other hand, are well stacked. Jordi Murphy and Shane Jennings have strong claims to start for the Blues but O’Connor is likely to go with Ruddock, O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

Rhys Ruddock Ruddock in action at Lansdowne Road in March. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

While Ruddock Sr. was joined by Leinster back row Peadar Timmins at an Ireland U20 press briefing. The UCD No.8 cites the senior breakthrough of Ruddock and Jordi Murphy as his inspiration. Add in academy graduate Jack Conan [a try-scorer on his debut] and former U20 captain Dan Leavy to the mix, and Leinster’s back row looks in good shape for years to come.

It has taken Ruddock five seasons to establish himself as a regular starter. He will not be ceding his place to the young(er) guns any time soon.

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Patrick McCarry

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