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Dublin: 12°C Monday 19 April 2021

Ryan reaping reward for behind-the-scenes contribution to Schmidt success

The Munster man is one of a number of players rewarded for unseen roles in the preparation that brought back-to-back titles to these shores.

JOE SCHMIDT WASN’T prepared to go overboard in his praise for Donnacha Ryan. Not when he was sitting just inches away anyway.

Donnacha Ryan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Instead, the Kiwi moved to highlight one simple, unseen aspect that impressed him about the Tipperary man long before he was able to select Ryan for the first time in his tenure.

“Donnacha’s actually been in camp a few times, he came in at the back end of camp a couple of seasons ago and did a fantastic job of organising the opposition line-out,” says Schmidt.

“At that stage there were a couple of guys in front of him and he had only just come back to fitness. So it’s great to get him back fully fit, with the experience and I suppose the IP (intellectual property) he brings to our set-pieces.”

If providing good training opposition is a major reason for selecting Ryan this weekend, it is not unique to him. Fergus McFadden suggested the same goes for many of Saturday’s line-up. Aside from a handful of obvious first XV regulars and others returning from injury, this is a side that has hovered just below the top echelon of Irish rugby and now have a chance to prove they can step up further.

“Joe said last week,” McFadden explains; “guys are getting an opportunity in this game that maybe didn’t get an opportunity in the Six Nations, but were a huge part in those successful Championships because of how well they trained as opposition.

“He just made a point to the guys that may have been starting to really dig in and prepare those who are getting an opportunity this week.”

Donnacha Ryan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After two and a half years without an international cap, the return from the shadow line-up to the limelight should be counted as a watershed moment for Ryan. Though his gruff accent, broad chest and efforts on the training field make it unlikely that the 31-year-old could ever be described as giddy, his words came close to fitting the bill.

Asked whether, through 18 long months out with a toe injury, he feared he would never don the green jersey again; Ryan’s answer was without fuss, but to the point.

Without being too dramatic about it, yeah.”

He added: “I’m so happy to be honest. I’m delighted. Didn’t think it would ever happen. I’m looking forward to it, really enjoying the training. Very high-octane stuff. It’s great mixing different combinations with guys and really feeding off it. It’s fantastic.”

All of that delight was conveyed in a comparatively flat tone. Ryan is one new weapon for Schmidt’s arsenal that won’t be overawed by any occasion.

“I’m very pleased where I am now, getting an opportunity to play again. looking forward to training tomorrow and playing the weekend. That’s basically it, take it day by day.

“The first game of pre-season is always quite tough so I’ve just got to empty the tank as much as I can and then it’s as much mental strength as anything else.”

Save the praise, it’s a place on the plane Ryan values.

The immovable Mike Ross and more talking points on Ireland’s first team-sheet of the season

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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