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'It’s like Sexto, he has a way with words... He's the right man for the job'

James Ryan captains Ireland in today’s Six Nations clash in Paris.

James Ryan before Ireland's captain's run yesterday.
James Ryan before Ireland's captain's run yesterday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE TWO SKIPPERS at Stade de France today are still relatively new to the gig.

Antoine Dupont took over as France captain just last autumn due to back row Charles Ollivon missing out with the knee injury that still has him sidelined.

Meanwhile, James Ryan has been Johnny Sexton’s deputy for Ireland. With the 36-year-old captain missing today due to a hamstring strain, Ryan gets his latest chance to lead Ireland and this looks like the biggest occasion yet.

Ryan has done the job five times before, including as recently as the November win over Argentina when Sexton was also injured, but he has been captaining teams since he was a young fella.

“Myself and James would have played Ireland 18s Schools together, played 20s together and he was skipper for both of them,” says Ireland loosehead prop Andrew Porter.

“He’s an incredible leader, he’s always had that quality about him and it’s great to be alongside one of your team-mates from when you were younger. He’s the right man to lead the team and I’m really excited for him to lead us out on the weekend.”

Ryan was superb for Ireland last weekend against Wales, delivering impressive physicality in a controlled and accurate manner. 

He tends to lead by example with his work-rate, but Porter explains that Ryan is also well able to find the right tone before games too.

james-ryan-and-paul-oconnell Ryan speaks with Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think it’s the way he can motivate the team,” says the Leinster prop. “It’s like Sexto, he has a way with words.

“I think he also just leads by example and in terms of his work-rate and his chat, clearly he’s the right man for the job.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has been working hard to build a more collective sense of leadership in this squad in recent seasons.

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Sexton remains the most powerful personality in the group but he has been self-aware in trying to help others find their voices.

Tadhg Furlong has enjoyed being part of the leadership group, Garry Ringrose has come out of his shell far more to influence others, while the experienced Peter O’Mahony and Iain Henderson offer nous off the bench today.

Ryan is likely to lean on them all as he looks to cope with the heat of today’s contest against France, and Farrell has been encouraged by what he has seen from the group in recent days and weeks.

“Ownership, taking control of their team, thinking a little bit differently,” says Farrell when asked what the leadership group is delivering.

“Not just turning up, but having an opinion of where they’re at and how they feel. The ownership keeps growing and we keep benefiting from that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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