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'You don’t want to be surviving. You want to be setting the impetus'

Donnacha Ryan will be looking to lead from the front for Ireland tomorrow.

Murray Kinsella reports from Trump Tower

MINDSET WILL BE key for Ireland tomorrow in Soldier Field, and it would be no surprise to see a hungry Donnacha Ryan leading the way with his typically aggressive edge.

The Munster man admits to a “giddiness” this week ahead of facing the All Blacks, even if that sense of enthusiasm always comes with playing Test rugby.

Donnacha Ryan Ryan always bring an aggressive edge for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

In terms of Ireland’s collective mindset, the 32-year-old second row says assistant coach Andy Farrell – the defence specialist – has been an important influence.

“In a game like this, you don’t want to be surviving,” says Ryan, who will start alongside Devin Toner in the second row. “You want to be setting the impetus.

“It is a fantastic mindset to have. We have an attacking mindset and obviously, we saw against South Africa, they are capable of doing a massive job on teams. When you are nailed on on what you have to do, as a collective unit you have to produce.”

Ryan is entirely absorbed in the process of returning to Test rugby, having impressed for Munster again last weekend in the win over Ulster, when his ball-carrying was particularly effective.

With a shortened window of prep for Ireland’s meeting with the Kiwis, the approach of Joe Schmidt and his coaching staff has been making the task easier for their players this week.

The concise delivery in the Irish backroom team’s analysis sessions has been important.

“Joe and the management have put systems in place for us – they are breaking things down from set-piece, from general play. There is no point in looking at the whole macro goal; it is about the small micro things because that’s what separates teams from challenging them [the All Blacks].

Donnacha Ryan Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“That really narrows our focus rather than being obliterated by the big task at hand. That does allow us to be expansive and have a go, that’s what we want to do.”

The task at hand? Beating the All Blacks for the first time in Ireland’s rugby history.

Ireland have played the New Zealanders 28 times since 1905, with zero success. These things can change, however, with the Cubs – Chicago’s baseball team – breaking a 108-year streak of heartbreak by taking the World Series on Wednesday night.

I don’t know, a lot has happened since then, like two World Wars and a lot of other stuff,” says Ryan, underlining the scale of Ireland’s historic failure against New Zealand. “We have to narrow it, focus on our own jobs.

“Bringing up history is great, but from our point of view for this team to create our own history is the ultimate challenge.

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“That determines our mindset leading into the game. What happened here in the city was amazing. I am still sorting out the jet-lag, but it was great to see it.

“I wouldn’t be overly familiar with baseball in general but the atmosphere around the street was brilliant and there is supposed to be a big parade on tomorrow. So it is great to be here, soaking it all in.”

Kieran Marmion, Luke McGrath, CJ Stander, Craig Gilroy and Donnacha Ryan Ryan and his Ireland team-mates visited the Chicago Bulls' training base on Wednesday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ryan will pack down at loosehead lock tomorrow, with Toner scrummaging behind tighthead Tadhg Furlong.

Mike Ross hasn’t retired from Test rugby by any means, but Wexford man Furlong will hope this is the beginning of his era as Ireland’s leading tighthead. Ryan has faith in the 23-year-old.

“He is a very determined guy, a straight talker, knows what he is about, he works very hard on the pitch and has very good fitness,” says Ryan.

“We will all be looking after one another because there are going to be challenges during the game. We need to solve problems on the run and do it collectively, which is the most important thing.”

Ryan certainly has his homework done on the Kiwis, readily listing off the number of caps his second row opponents, Jerome Kaino [75] and Patrick Tuipulotu [10], have earned.

“Back rows are very versatile nowadays and he has played a good few times in the second row as well,” says Ryan of Kaino’s switch into the engine room.

“He’s a guy with 75 caps and calls the lineout as well. Himself and Tuipulotu are Blues boys, so they are quite familiar with each other.”

For Ryan, the focus is on bringing that attacking mindset, taking the game to the Kiwis and setting the impetus.

No better man for the job.

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Murray Kinsella

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