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Limited opportunities leave Ryan frustrated and considering future away from Leinster

The back row has grown into a leadership role this season, but young rivals now appear to be ahead of him in the pecking order.

DOMINIC RYAN’S ONE hundredth Leinster cap didn’t take him by surprise. He had an eye on the milestone in pre-season when he was making out his goals for this campaign.

What did take him aback however, was the sight of an early season team-sheet where each name was accompanied by the number of appearances they had made for the province. The weight of the numbers pushed Ryan into a slight change of approach:

Isa Nacewa and Dominic Ryan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think I was the second most-capped player in the squad behind Isa (Nacewa),” Ryan said while promoting Samsung’s association with his province yesterday.

“I never (thought about it) you just go out on the pitch and just play and talk to myself. Maybe that’s been the reason why, over the past six or eight months, I play more of a leadership role in the squad.

“You’ve got a lot of young guys in the team, who maybe are looking for leadership – because I have 100 caps or whatever I’ve played. That was the case when I was a young guy. You’d always have the likes of Jenno in the team, who’d be the older maybe non-international player, who’s always there providing leadership.

If things are going wrong on the pitch, or defensively getting lads sorted. I suppose, my role changed in terms of: ‘I’m not on the pitch to just make tackles and carry’.”

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Ryan uses the term ‘non-international’ loosely of course. Like Shane Jennings, he is in fact an international. Just not on international duty in the given weeks he’s referring to, partly due to the helping hand he offered the likes of Josh van der Flier along the way.

He hasn’t given up on adding to his single Test appearance, but he’s big enough to face up to his current place in the pecking order. And while he hopes to be involved in this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash away to Connacht, an extra returning Ireland star or two will probably edge him out of the matchday squad shortly after he celebrates his 26th birthday on Monday.

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“Oh I have, yes, I have,” the flanker told radio mics when asked if he might consider looking for a new club because of his frustration at a lack of game time.

“You talk to the coaches about it, keep it to yourself, talk to fellow players about it.  Maybe you’re not playing because you are not good enough. Sometimes it is down to yourself, am I playing well enough to get picked? Sometimes you might be to blame yourself.”

Dominic Ryan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s a luxury for Leinster that they have so many quality back rows. It’s a pain for players, but you’ve grown up in Leinster and your whole life, you’ve dreamed of playing for Leinster.

“What am I, six seasons now at it? Yeah, it might be an option in the future, but I’m contracted for next season (to 2017) so I just have that in mind and whatever happens after that we’ll see.

It’s important to get a run of games. It’s tough to try and get into a rhythm when you’re playing 20 minutes off the bench. Then you start a game and you mightn’t play the next weekend, then you might be benching the weekend after that. Regular game time is important for me mentally as well as physically.

“I’ve had a good run now that the lads are away at the Six Nations, so hopefully I’ll keep it up.”

101 caps, and counting.

Samsung, official technology partner to Leinster Rugby, is giving fans a chance to shoot behind the scenes at the RDS using the new Galaxy S7. Winners will also learn from a photography masterclass before snapping pitch-side when Leinster take on Edinburgh. Go to Samsung’s Facebook page or here for more information on how to win.

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Sean Farrell

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