'It's something I've enjoyed, but Johnny is team captain' - James Ryan

The 24-year-old will captain Ireland again this weekend versus Georgia.

James Ryan took over as skipper last week with Johnny Sexton injured.
James Ryan took over as skipper last week with Johnny Sexton injured.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JAMES RYAN WILL captain Ireland again this weekend for the Autumn Nations Cup clash with Georgia in Dublin, but he underlined that Johnny Sexton remains the first-choice skipper when available.

Sexton is sidelined with a hamstring injury, meaning Ryan took over as captain for the first time for last weekend’s defeat to England in London.

The 24-year-old will continue in the role for Sunday’s clash with the Georgians but Sexton is hopeful of returning for Ireland’s final Autumn Nations Cup clash on 5 December, most likely a play-off game against Scotland.

“Hopefully, Johnny will be back next week and he’ll be back leading the side,” said Ryan today.

“It’s something I’ve enjoyed, but he is team captain.”

The England game was obviously a disappointing experience for Ryan on his first occasion as the named skipper, but he said the extra responsibility didn’t weigh too heavily on him.

“The week was probably slightly different. Early in the week, I just tried to focus on my own game. Once the game started, I kind of forgot I was captain, to be honest. Apart from dealing with the ref, I was just doing my own game.

“As for how the game went, I’m proud of the lads in many respects. I think we fronted up massively, I think we defended really well at times but we just weren’t clinical enough. We’re getting opportunities from creating pressure but we just need to nail those moments.

“At this level, if you’ve got four big moments and four big opportunities, you’ve got to take three of them anyway. We’re trying to find that clinical edge so it was a bit of a mixed bag for us.”

In order to find that clinical edge, Ryan believes Ireland need to be a more composed team, particularly under pressure from the best sides like England.

“When we’re a bit calmer at times we get into their 22, when we’ve got a bit more calmness about us, we’re able to see pictures and play to the space as opposed to trying to run over them or run into them all the time.

“They put pressure on us but for us as well, it’s just making sure that we find that calmness in those moments.”

The lineout and maul went very poorly for Ireland in Twickenham and Ryan was keen to stress that hooker Ronan Kelleher was not at fault in many of the instances, pointing to the second Jonny May try as an example.

“We had an opportunity, 5-0 down and five or 10 metres out, and what looks like an overthrow to everyone else isn’t an overthrow to us,” said Ryan.

“That movement is about two feet forward from where it should be. So, it’s the correct throw that Ronan is throwing all week but because we’re further up the line than we should be it’s an over-throw.

“So, it’s little things like that for us, those fine margins that we need to fix.

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“Set-piece is so important at this level. There was that side of things, the other side of things was we maybe thought we had too much. We build up a menu early in the week and maybe it’s about simplifying it and taking more off it so we can just be really good at a small number of options. That’s another thing.

“Another learning is maybe we need a bit more movement and variety at times so we don’t always have to drive against these big teams, we can play little other plays. I hope that paints the picture that it’s a number of things, a number of learnings we’ll take from it.”

Ryan is keen for Ireland supporters to be patient with Andy Farrell’s side, which features a number of fresh faces.

“It was a relatively inexperienced side compared to those guys who’d been together for 10 years and I was proud of the lads,” said Ryan.

“I thought we really fronted up defensively, guys like Caelan Doris really stood up.

“We didn’t finish those opportunities. I thought we kept slamming on the door, working really hard for each other and we’ll take massive confidence from that physicality the lads showed.

“The next layer of that is about being a bit smarter.”

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