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Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO Head and shoulders above: Ryan sings the anthems before the clash with Italy.
# found his calling
Towering Ryan relishing the 'dirty work' against France
The lock is proving to be an expert line-out caller for Noel McNamara’s side.

THE THING ABOUT rugby, is that it has a place for all shapes and sizes. And this Ireland U20 side is a better example than most.

From the commanding presence of Craig Casey at scrum-half, through the agile Angus Kernohan, the power of Dylan Tierney-Martin to the tall timber in the second row.

Some are making their way in elite level rugby after putting their a varied sampling platter of other activities or sports. But for Charlie Ryan, he doesn’t look back at any fork in the road that might have led him anywhere else.

“Tried tennis, no good at it,” he says with a knowing smile as his 6′ 7″ frame is folded atop a stool in the team hotel.

“Very slow sprinter. I tried cross-country, found it quite boring… I tried three instruments, the violin, the piano, the drums – I quit them all.

“I guess it’s just rugby for me.”

Self-depreciating humour aside. Rugby is the place for him and there’s been little doubt of that since he first went to Blackrock minis and on through Willow Park

In the second year with Leinster’s sub-academy, Ryan has worked hard on his conditioning in a bid to fill out into a formidable frame which has been a central component of Ireland’s success through the opening three outings in this year’s Six Nations. His performances are also driven along by the possibility of a space in the academy-proper.

Charlie Ryan Gary Carr / INPHO Ryan outside the U20 team's hotel, and its statue depicting a line-out. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

To give himself the best possible chance of a berth, he has bulked up from 106 kilos to 110. But more important than the number on the scales, is the number of hours he has been putting in with physio Niall Kennedy to build strength through his core and his hips so that he can rack up more minutes on the field.

“I wasn’t given a contract this year. I got another crack at it in the sub-academy to physically develop. Personally, I felt a little bit behind. No one ever told me that. They never say it that bluntly. In fairness, they’re brilliant. They’ve just given me solutions.”

“David Fagan and Danny Wood and the boys in the sub-academy in the portacabin, I’ve just been putting in the hours there. I feel stronger and heavier, the main thing is I can get through 80 minutes without getting hurt. 

“Being able to do it week-after-week is the main thing.

“You can be in the gym all you like. But, if you can’t get through 80 minutes-after-80 minutes, you’re going to struggle to get anywhere.”

In the much shorter term, his chief concern is how to find a route through France. Ryan is line-out caller for Noel McNamara’s side does not take the responsibility lightly, stressing the need to change up ‘the menu’ of calls and also the tempo of the set-piece to keep the Les Bleus from getting into the air and disrupting.

When he is not studying business and law in UCD, he is studying line-outs, driven still by a chastening experience when losing to Belvedere in the Leinster Senior Cup final, a loss he puts down in part to a malfunctioning line-out.

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Thomas Clarkson supported by Charlie Ryan James Crombie / INPHO Ryan loves the 'dirty work'. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

On top of his expertise in the line-out, he speaks with a relish about his duties around the ruck, delivering clean ball for Casey at scrum-half. It’s a workload that has borne fruit throughout the opening three games of the Championship, and Ryan won’t be shaken off course.

“Just been putting the head down and doing what I was hoping to do from the start, which is working as hard as I can for the lads. Because I’m not much of a highlight-reel player,” he says.

I’ve been happy just getting through all that dirty work, it’s what I’m best at. I’m not going to be running them in from 40 metres.”

He has found his calling, there’s no doubt. And he’s intent on making his mark on the world champions in Friday’s tournament-decider at Musgrave Park.

“Where else would you rather be?”

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