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'His tactical acumen and leadership are vital to the team' - Donnacha Ryan shines

The Tipperary man came in for big praise on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Updated Sep 28th 2020, 12:00 PM

IT WAS LARGELY a happy weekend for the Irish Abroad in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals, as Ian Whitten impressed in midfield for Exeter against Toulouse, while stalwart Gareth Steenson was part of the Chiefs’ matchday 23 too.

Over in Paris, Simon Zebo was at fullback as Racing overcame Mark McCall’s Saracens, while attack coach Mike Prendergast’s reputation continues to grow after his players kept faith to produce Juan Imhoff’s late winning try.

But it was the performance of 36-year-old former Munster and Ireland second row Donnacha Ryan that was most eye-catching, as Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella discussed on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

DRRR Ryan was outstanding for Racing.

Capped 47 times by Ireland before his move to Racing in 2017, Tipperary man Ryan has become an important figure in the Top 14 club’s set-up and his display against Saracens was relentlessly impressive. 

“He turns 37 in December but he was playing with the energy of a guy in his early 20s,” said Murray. “He was winning jackal penalties, the one to make it 15-12 was him getting over Itoje and drawing the penalty.

“He had a massive work-rate on kick chase, he was really prominent there.

“You can just see the little moments of leadership, a quiet word in a team-mate’s ear, even getting in Nigel Owens’ ear at one stage.

“Eoin, what did you make of his performance and how impressed are you that he’s still delivering performances like this at his age?”

“Hugely impressed,” said Eoin. “From a tactical perspective, when you look at the dominance Saracens got from their maul last week [against Leinster] and the field position it provided, between Donnacha and Dominic Bird, who’s also a big lineout presence, they nullified a lot of the maul ability of that Saracens pack and disrupted a lot of their possession.

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“Saracens were about 82% for their success at the lineout and had a couple more disrupted, so Racing did a job on the Saracens lineout. We saw the damage that driving maul did to Leinster the previous week.

“Set-piece is one of Donnacha’s strengths and then those little moments, we’ve talked about the check on Richard Wigglesworth to deny him access to the breakdown after Dom Morris’ big linebreak.

richard-wigglesworth-kicks-past-donnacha-ryan Ryan was a constant thorn in Saracens' side. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

“That turnover on Itoje is Donnacha’s last moment in the game and it makes it 15-12. It was a huge moment for Racing when it looked like Saracens had denied Racing an entry point into the 22.

“There were huge moments from him and it’s a credit that he’s still going. You’ve written a few times about how highly regarded he is in the Racing programme and his tactical acumen and leadership are hugely vital to the team.”

Today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra also saw the lads discussing Prendergast’s attacking influence, Zebo’s performance, and why Saracens came up short.

There was in-depth analysis of Exeter’s impressive win, including their close-range effectiveness, clever shapes in phase play, and also Toulouse’s big missed chance. 

There was also discussion of an Irishman winning the Ranfurly Shield in New Zealand, as well as the start of the Energia Community Series around Ireland.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other shows on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting weekly newsletters and access to our lively member-only Whatsapp groups.

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