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Lancaster backs Ryan and Ireland to learn from tough day in Twickenham

‘He’ll be very reflective but he’ll move on very quickly. He’s very level-headed’

James Ryan was named Ireland captain for the first time last week.
James Ryan was named Ireland captain for the first time last week.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEINSTER SENIOR COACH Stuart Lancaster is backing James Ryan to learn from his first experience of being named Ireland captain and become a better leader.

The 24-year-old was handed the captaincy from the off for the first time last weekend and was part of an Ireland side that endured a tough afternoon against England at Twickenham.

Ryan has yet to captain Leinster at senior level but took over as Ireland skipper in the injury-enforced absence of Johnny Sexton. The lock was also responsible for calling Ireland’s lineout on a day it had a damagingly poor showing against England.

The Leinster man carried aggressively nine times for Ireland and made a team-leading 10 tackles but would have been frustrated to uncharacteristically concede four penalties.

Former England boss Lancaster has worked with Ryan in the area of leadership in recent seasons and has no doubt that the experience will be a positive one moving forward.

“He’s very honest, James, as a player and a person. He’s very… not self-critical but very aware of his strengths and the areas he needs to work on.

“First and foremost, he’ll be wanting to lead the lineout well. He’ll also want to captain well. He’ll lead by example in that regard.

“But I’m sure he’ll be reflecting as much on the lineout as anything else. Sometimes in games, you can give the occasional penalty away, I wouldn’t attribute that to anything – one of them was definitely a missed target on a clearout when Billy Vunipola jumped out of the way and he ended up falling off his feet.

“But the pressure that England put on Ireland as a collective meant that there were unforced errors in certain areas.

“I think James will be wanting to get his own game right and if he has the responsibility for running the lineout… I don’t know what they are going to do between James and Iain Henderson, if Henderson comes in and runs the lineout that might be different.

“But James will be fine. He’ll be very reflective but he’ll move on very quickly and he’ll be rolling his sleeves up. If he’s got captaincy this weekend he’ll want to do a great job, both on the field in terms of the lineout and who’s running it, and in terms of the message he wants to give. He’s very level-headed.”

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ross-byrne-during-the-warm-up Ross Byrne made his second Test start last weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Similarly, Lancaster is convinced that Leinster halfbacks Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne will be better for their starts in the defeat to England.

“It’s tough when you are not getting a lot of front-foot ball and you’re trying to make something happen, and I think definitely they both felt the pressure that England managed to put on them, the squeeze England put on defensively,” said Lancaster.

“And that was without 80,000 people there as well, so it’s given them an insight into what international rugby feels like. It’s called Test rugby for a reason, it tests you in every way. They’ll have learned a lot from it.”

Ireland have now lost to England four times in a row but Lancaster believes injuries made life far more difficult last weekend and pointed out that Andy Farrell’s men were far less experienced than the English.

“I look around our gym at the moment and I’m seeing Jordan Larmour and Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw was in the other day, Dan Leavy has just got back, Jack Conan was in there, Tadhg Furlong is in there, Johnny Sexton didn’t play,” said Lancaster.

“So I think there are some pretty good Leinster players alone not playing.

“It’s worth bearing in mind in terms of international experience… when I started coaching England in 2012, I think we had 220 caps in the starting 15 that played against Scotland, seven new caps.

“And we went through a period of transition in one go and it’s pretty much the same group of players, albeit some lads have come in in 2014 and 2015, they’ve now made it an England team with 800 caps.

“So you look at the transition Ireland are going through. I was thinking about Dev Toner, Rory Best, and Rob Kearney, that’s over 250 caps in those three players alone.

“Ireland will be disappointed and there is a gap, obviously, because it’s reflected in the results.

“But I do think Ireland are on the right track in giving these lads opportunities to play these big games. It tests you and you learn a lot about yourself in this window and I think it will stand to Ireland in the Six Nations.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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