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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Munster's Ryan not looking to do 'copy and paste' job in Ireland's second row

The 32-year-old Tipp man is competing with Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy and Ultan Dillane.

THE TWO MEN that are missing this time around in Ireland’s second row don’t really need to be mentioned again.

It’s all about how Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan, Mike McCarthy and Ultan Dillane can take ownership of the engine room as Joe Schmidt’s side attempt to make history in the Six Nations.

Donnacha Ryan Ryan will bring his own traits to Ireland's second row. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Leinster’s Toner is the clear favourite to become the mainstay of Ireland’s second row for the forthcoming championship, but the slot beside him is altogether more difficult to be certain about.

The feeling coming into this game is that Mike McCarthy’s excellent provincial form may see him squeeze into the team as the tighthead lock [where he scrummages so well], but before the World Cup you would have had Ryan as markedly ahead in the pecking order.

A knee injury in December was badly timed, while Munster’s notable struggle for form was somewhat reflected in the Tipp man’s own individual performances.

It has been a pain in the backside, to be honest,” says Ryan when asked about his season so far.

“I’m just trying to get games under my belt. In the Leicester away game, it went as soon as the game kicked off and then, trying to get back for Leinster a week later, I damaged my knee.

“Trying to get a run of games is my main goal. You look at the likes of CJ [Stander], who has played 20 games, you get that rugby conditioning where you are not injured as much. You’re battle-hardened as well. I’m getting in the right direction right now, which is good.”

Donnacha Ryan lifted by Jamie Heaslip Jamie Heaslip lifts Ryan at Ireland training yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Indeed, having recovered from his knee issue, Ryan says he is feeling fresh, fast and “mentally fantastic.” He is simply eager now to build the rugby fitness he believes he needs to return to his very peak form-wise.

Given the strength of the Welsh pack this weekend, Schmidt will need a mammoth performance from the eight men he names to start up front and the five reserves he opts for too.

The lock pairing of Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris would appear to give Warren Gatland’s side one clear advantage at least, though Ryan points to Ireland’s abilities too.

Charteris and Jones are two big guys with a massive amount of experience,” says the 32-year-old. “Alun Wn Jones is a Lions captain as well. Then you have Bradley Davies off the bench, he’s a very abrasive guy.

“They are big, heavy guys and they have been motoring well. Charteris has been playing well over with Racing. I was watching him playing and Alun Wyn in the Pro12 regularly enough.

“We have really good talent here as well. Devin has probably been our most consistent player. Mike has been playing fantastic for Leinster and Ultan has been tremendous. He is a real live-wire as well. They have a lot of experience but we have a lot in our tank as well.”

Donnacha Ryan Ryan has had a frustrating season but feels fit and ready. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The questions about the now-retired legendary Ireland second row are certain to continue throughout this championship if Ireland don’t get into a run of wins, but Ryan says Ireland’s current quartet of second rows have formed a close working relationship as they look to live up to the standard that has been set.

Mike, Dev, and myself have worked an awful lot together before. Ultan has come in now and he’s a breath of fresh air, a lovely guy. He’s very positive and full of energy as well which is great.

“We’re pooling all the ideas together. There’s no point doing a copy and paste of what Paulie does because he was unique in himself.

“From our point of view, it’s to bring our own traits and habits. You basically just want to do your job and do it as well as you possibly can. That’s all we’re being asked to do.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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