James Ryan has been superb for Ireland U20s. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
big future

'It's probably up to Leinster whether they're going to fast-track him'

Ireland U20s captain James Ryan has a big future in the game and now he’s even being compared to Paul O’Connell.

IT’S STILL EARLY days in his career but Ireland U20s captain James Ryan has already made a big impression with a couple of imposing performances during this Six Nations campaign.

Given his prominence at underage level, it’s probably untrue to say the 19-year-old is a hidden gem but Ryan has announced himself by leading from the front.

The second row is the latest prodigy to come off the St Michael’s production line and his energy, both in attack and defence, dynamism and work-rate has turned heads.

“He’s excellent, an excellent member of the team and an excellent captain,” Ireland U20s forwards coach, Peter Malone, says of Ryan. “Like all these guys, he’s developing and has loads of work-ons.

“He’s certainly leading the line with his performances and his work-rate around the park is excellent. His ball carrying is good, his defence is good so he’s leading all those things.

“As he’s learning through this, managing and running the lineout will be that big growth for James because if you look at (Devin) Toner and all these guys that he’s trying to come up against, the detail and the work that they put in to manage a lineout is massive.

“Hopefully we’ve seen that lineout improve and I think as a pack we’ve got better through the Six Nations and I think he’s learning all the way and that’s why this competition is so good.

James Ryan is presented with his man of the match award by Paul Stapeton Ryan collected the MOTM award last Friday. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“You’re in a professional environment for six weeks and you’re challenged to come up with new lineout variations and step it up and change it up every week.”

Ryan, who has already skippered Ireland at U18 level and also led the Leinster U18s, U19s and U20s, has been superb throughout the tournament and comparisons have even been made with Paul O’Connell.

The Lansdowne man has demonstrated his prowess in each of Ireland’s four games and Malone believes Ryan could make the step-up to professional rugby.

“That’s probably out of our hands and it’s probably up to Leinster to make a decision on whether they’re going to fast-track him,” he continued.

“But he’s certainly very comfortable at this level and his performance has been at a high level. It’s up to the guys in Leinster and the Academy to say ‘listen, we can maybe challenge him a bit earlier’.

“Maybe that’s the way it’ll go over the next three to six months. It might be the curve up to the ‘A’ rugby into maybe Pro12.

“We’re only working with this group for a certain period of time, we’re trying to pump as much information as possible and get a performance every week and then we hand them back to the province.”

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