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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Guinness Series: Ryan hoping to knock the stuffing from the Springboks

The Munster forward believes he has been bred for rugby challenges that sides like South Africa are sure to pose.

Donnacha Ryan in training at Carton House today.
Donnacha Ryan in training at Carton House today.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IRELAND FORWARD DONNACHA RYAN plants his large frame onto one of the many ornate chairs at Carton House.

Looking towards the end of the room, at the glare of the television cameras and lights, the Munster man grimaces.

“They don’t want me do they?” he jests, “I’ve a head like a burst couch.”

A burst coach might be put forward, by folks crueller than I, as an analogy for the Irish team but Ryan is a spring that they can rely on when the 800kg (plus) South African pack crash-land into the Aviva on Saturday.

They’re a top-class side,” Ryan told “If you look at their games, the scrum is a massive platform, as is their maul. They’re lethal off that and they get a lot of penalties.

“We have to try and nullify that and make it as tough a day for them as possible.”

The bruiser

Injuries in the Irish back-row [Sean O'Brien long-term and Stephen Ferris out for four weeks] mean Ryan may be deployed in the back row against the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw.

He revealed, “I was worried there a while back – sort of considered a jack of all trades but you take it as a compliment really that you can be thrown around like that. I’d have no problem fitting in with the team and if it helps, well and good.”

It feels like pointing out the obvious to inform Ryan that the Springboks will be looking to pose a uniquely physical challenge. He nods, and smiles, before responding that, playing with Munster, ‘you end up doing a bit of bruising’ too. Ryan added:

Generally the South Africans are known for being the biggest and strongest men in world rugby so certainly we are going to be up against it.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get our technical stuff right and bring the right, physical approach to their forwards.”

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The second row battle

Ryan, who eventually shunted provincial colleague Donncha O’Callaghan out of Ireland’s starting line-up in the Six Nations, says the entire squad have been boosted by the full training sessions completed [and competed] by Paul O’Connell.

“You don’t want to be hinging everything on one player,” he said.

We have a lot of strength-in-depth in the second row and great leaders within the team. I know they wouldn’t be as vocal on the outside but on the field, once they cross the white line, there’s a lot of guys who lead by example.

“It’s great to have him up there but, if he wasn’t, plenty of guys would step up to the plate.”

South African coach Heyneke Meyer looks set to start Eben Etzebeth, 12 years O’Connell’s junior, in the second-row on Saturday.

The young Stormers star picked up a two-week suspension in September for head-butting Australia’s Nathan Sharpe.

“He’s a very big guy,” says Ryan before pausing briefly. “Very explosive.”

He added, “We certainly have to keep a good eye on him at the weekend as their pack will be looking to give him a good platform on which to excel. We have to, one to eight, bring our best game.”

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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