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Ryan and team-mates react to the shock defeat.
Ryan and team-mates react to the shock defeat.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'It's all about reaction now,' says James Ryan as Ireland pick up the pieces

The Leinster lock was understandably downcast after Ireland were shocked by the hosts.
Sep 28th 2019, 3:25 PM 7,515 19

JAMES RYAN DOESN’T lose many games, it took the young lock 24 matches at the very peak of professional rugby before experiencing the unmistakable, gut-wrenching sensation.

And after helping Ireland get their World Cup off to a roaring start last Sunday, nobody expected him to be sent soul-searching after a match against ninth-ranked Japan.

“Eh, yeah,” came the succinct response from the 23-year-old second row was asked if he was shell-shocked by the outcome.

His ordinarily steely demeanour now seemed fit to burst with emotion.

“Discipline let us down,” said the Leinster stalwart, “we gave them three points here and there, and that gave them belief and changed the momentum of the game.

“But to give credit to them, I thought they were class today and full credit they deserved their victory.”

Ireland went to this tournament as the world’s number one-ranked team, but looked a long way short of that accolade as they were over-run by Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms.

The host nation played with an unrelenting tempo and intensity that reeled Ireland in after they had opened up a 3-12 lead after 20 minutes. The quality of the hosts surprised the bookmakers, who placed a 21-point handicap on Joe Schmidt’s men, but Ryan says the standards set by Japan was no shock.

“I don’t think it massively surprised me, to be honest. I played here two years ago and my abiding memory of it was the tempo and the pace they played at. We knew that was going to be tough combined with the heat and humidity, so I think they were exceptional today and they deserved it.”

It was a tough game, especially the way they play. Definitely were blowing a bit. But we can’t use any excuse. We knew for a while it was going to be a six-day turnaround so…”

That 2017 tour Ryan mentions came during the Lions tour and Ryan travelled to make his Test debut in an under-strength Ireland side who managed to claim 22-50 and 13-35 wins over Japan on consecutive weekends.

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Clearly, Joseph used the two years since to get his side perfectly primed.

“They love playing with the ball off the deck, just that kind of tempo game. So the biggest challenge in that is making sure you are ahead of the game and are ready to go. A couple of times we weren’t set and they punished us.”

He adds: “I wouldn’t say it is different (Japan’s style). A lot of teams like to play with that kind of tempo. I think they did it really well today. You know, it is probably different to the type of game we might get with South Africa but it works for them.”

the-japan-team-celebrate-after-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Since Sunday, Ireland might have been expecting to build preparations towards a quarter-final clash with the Springboks. Now, with the pool blown wide open, Japan are two games away from topping Pool A and leaving Ireland matched up with the All Blacks. Or perhaps it could get worse. We’ve all learned a lesson from predicting smooth sailing after accounting for Scotland.

Russia are next up for Ireland and, having bemoaned a six-day turnaround before this game, Schmidt will see a challenge in the five-day prep before facing Lyn Jones’ underdogs.

“It’s all about reaction now,” says Ryan, who may well be rested after playing all 160 minutes of this World Cup so far.

“We can feel sorry for ourselves or we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go again. And that is our intention.”

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