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Ryan confident Ireland can find quick fix for communication issues

The squad’s communication on the pitch was flagged as an issue by attack coach Mike Catt.

Ireland second-row James Ryan.
Ireland second-row James Ryan.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Feb 25th 2021, 8:31 AM

IT APPEARS STRANGE that now, in this era of eerily quiet empty stadiums, communication within the Ireland team has been publicly flagged as an issue by one of their own.

It’s an area of Ireland’s game which was put front and centre by Mike Catt earlier this week, the attack coach stating: “In terms of the quietness of some of the players, it’s something that we can be so much better at.”

It’s not the first time such concerns have been raised.

In 2019, Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster remarked how he found some of the province’s younger players to be more quiet and detail-oriented that he had previously experienced. 

At 24 years of age James Ryan would fall into that age bracket, but could hardly be accused of being too timid in terms of his communication. The second-row is a proven leader with 33 caps to his name and has already captained his country.

He accepts communication has been a problem for Andy Farrell’s team recently, but doesn’t see any reason it should develop into a long-term one.

“I wouldn’t say it is particularly difficult [to fix],” says Ryan, who is fit to play against Italy on Saturday after a head injury ruled him out of the loss to France.

“You might be a quiet guy off the pitch but you’ve got to find your voice on it. I think now that we have a conscious understanding of that, it should be a pretty easy solution.”

All the noises from Carton House and the IRFU’s High Performance Centre this week have painted a picture of a squad who are relishing the opportunity to improve on the performances against Wales and France.

Training has been good, Ryan says, but it’s now up to the players to turn that into a positive performance. Part of that includes the players making sure they are better at getting their messages across on the pitch.

“There’s a big individual responsibility I think to make sure that you’re primed and ready to go and play with purpose and play with intent. Nobody is going to do that for you. You have to do it by yourself,” he says.

“The other big part is the quality of our communication. Obviously stadiums are empty at the moment, we have to create our own noise. Communication is so important. When you see one of your team-mates has lost focus for a moment or two or if he’s gone a bit quiet, it’s about bringing people with you.

“We have to make sure the quality of our communication is really good across the board and that we are vocal. If we get that vocal energy and we prepare really well individually, that should do it.”

Does Ryan accept the suggestion that his generation are perhaps too quiet compared to the more senior members of the squad?

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“Maybe a small bit. But look, I think we’ve definitely come on in that department. Stuart, he’s been big on that since he came into Leinster, about players finding their voice, particularly younger players coming in. And Faz has been the same. 

“When you are in meetings and you speak you’ve got to make sure that everybody hears you, you’re standing up and you’re being vocal. There’s always an element when you’re a young player, you’re not going to come in all of a sudden and start being ultra-vocal, or talking about this, that and the other.

“But there is definitely an encouragement to be yourself and to contribute. And yeah, I think that’s an area that we can always push on, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge area of concern for us.

“But I’d say the one thing on that would be we are probably a bit quiet recently on the pitch, and we want to find that vocal energy and that communication this week, because we know the effect that that has.

“It’s infectious on our energy and on our enthusiasm, so it’s an area that we are trying to get right on the pitch on this week.”

Ireland have displayed plenty of spirit in the defeats to Wales and France, but are under pressure to show some semblance of attacking nous against an Italy team who last won a Six Nations fixture in 2015.

“The mood has been really good to be honest, genuinely. That’s the challenge after a couple of disappointing results,” Ryan adds.

“Some guys can maybe go into themselves, but you want to do the opposite, you want to really go after things and express yourself when things are a little bit tough.

“So that’s been the focus for us, not going into ourselves, not going into our shells and coming out of ourselves over the next few weeks with the remaining games.” 

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