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Henderson and Ryan at the heart of Ireland's dominant outing up front

The Irish second rows were superb as Joe Schmidt’s side bullied Scotland.

BY THE END of it, you suspect that Scotland were simply sickened by the sight of James Ryan.

Iain Henderson had since departed to put his feet up after a busy 57-minute shift, but Ryan completed the full 80 in outstanding fashion. 

The 23-year-old was as omnipresent as ever in Ireland’s 27-3 victory, playing a central role alongside Henderson at the heart of the Irish pack.

iain-henderson-breaks Iain Henderson makes a big linebreak for Ireland. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

Joe Schmidt has long been excited about the potential of this Henderson-Ryan pairing in the second row and Ireland’s dominant win in Yokohama saw the pair of them work strongly together in what was a highly-encouraging outing.

“I thought Iain started the game really well,” said Schmidt post-match. “We scored on the back of his burst. He is a powerful athlete, I thought he really accelerated well, got through the first couple of tackles. He worked his way around the pitch really well.

“Our lineout functioned really well with him and James Ryan sharing the responsibility and defensively he worked really hard closing the gap.

“You can’t afford to give Scotland any space at all, either on the outside or they play those trail runners and I thought Iain Henderson was alert the whole time.”

Henderson called a lineout that delivered a 100% success rate. Two of those wins were scrappy – one throw over the back in the first half bobbled before Josh van der Flier gathered it, while Andrew Porter had to grab another mix up in the second-half – but there were some excellent wins on Rory Best’s 12 throws. 

Henderson largely called to the front, where Ireland won the ball eight times, but Ireland were keen to maul in this game and the wet conditions in the second half meant such tactics were sensible.

There was variety in who jumped for Ireland. Ryan claimed three lineouts, Henderson had two, while CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne all secured one each.

Add in a lineout steal for Ryan and this was a positive outing for the Irish lineout.

“It was a good test for us, particularly when the rain started belting down,” said Ryan. “I was really happy with how the guys went.

james-ryan-wins-a-lineout Ryan rises to claim a lineout for Ireland. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

“I took one ball towards the end when they shifted up towards the front and the space was in the middle and in the pouring rain, ball like a bar of soap, Besty hits me at full extension. I was delighted with that. We made some good progress today.

“Traditionally, the lineout has been a real strength for us. Obviously, there were a couple of games in the summer when it didn’t go well for us and we weren’t where we needed to be. I think today was a good platform.”

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Henderson, as the primary lineout caller, was pleased too.

“We’ve had a really good two weeks of training,” said the Ulsterman. “Hats off to the guys who won’t get the credit – Jean Kleyn, Rhys Ruddock, Tadhg Beirne. They did a great job on the training field. We can only prep as well as the guys that aren’t playing train.

“[Forwards coach] Simon Easterby has done a good job for the past two weeks. We know we’ve been put under pressure with the pre-season, England didn’t go well, we built into Wales and it went better.”

While Henderson actually makes the calls in-game, Ryan underlined that he and O’Mahony do their best to help his decision-making.

“If I can see space up the line I can feed that back into him, and Peter likewise,” said Ryan. “It is very much a collective responsibility there.”

Ryan and Henderson contributed to an excellent day for Ireland’s maul too, while their efforts in the scrum were part of an impressive collective performance in that set-piece.

Around the pitch, they were both extremely prominent, with Henderson’s big linebreak laying the foundation for Ryan’s sixth-minute try.

iain-henderson-with-stuart-mcinally Ireland's locks carried well. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“For five minutes after it, I wasn’t feeling great,” said Henderson of his bust. “It’s good. When you get that, when you see someone else doing, that it gives a massive lift, it gets me excited.

“There was unbelievable support in the clearout and then James with the try. Not that we planned that but during the week there’s a lot of emphasis on linebreaks and making sure we make the most of them.”

Ryan, meanwhile, was Ireland’s second-busiest ball-carrier and their joint-top tackler on yet another hectic outing.

As Ireland look towards their clash with Japan in Shizuoka on Saturday, the Leinster man is now hopeful there is much come from Schmidt’s team, having laid down an impressive marker against the Scots.

“I think it’s all in the top two inches at this level,” said Ryan. “I think when we’re mentally primed and ready to go for the collisions and all that comes with the game, that’s when we’re at our best.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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