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Ryan looks for next level having moved past Lions disappointment

The 25-year-old Leinster and Ireland second row is aiming to push on as a player.

Ryan makes a carry against the Bulls.
Ryan makes a carry against the Bulls.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

GIVEN THAT HE has already achieved so much in his career, it’s easy to forget that James Ryan is still just 25.

The Leinster and Ireland man is already a top-class second row, but there is naturally still plenty of scope for improvement in his game. Many locks peak in their 30s so Ryan is determined to keep adding strings to his bow.

His smooth link pass to Johnny Sexton in the build-up to Josh van der Flier’s try against the Bulls last weekend was one example of a skill that Ryan has been looking to improve in recent times. 

We know very well that Ryan is always happy to put his hand up for crunching carries close to the ruck but having consistently high-quality passing skills will make him an even better player. 

“It’s really important,” says Ryan. “That’s something we’re big on with both Leinster and Ireland – running square, taking on the line, and it’s also guys either side of the ball-carrier running genuine strike lines, putting a show on around the ball-carrier so we can create indecision in the opposition’s mind.

“That’s something we’re working on in Leinster. We want to get away from one-out ball carriers, particularly when we come up against bigger, stronger teams like the Bulls.

“It’s about the show and animation around the ball-carriers that creates space further away on the edge or in the midfield.”

Ryan did some superb work at the lineout and maul last weekend against the Bulls too, particularly in defence. He has become a huge threat on the opposition throw in recent seasons, regularly making big steals in the air.

james-ryan-and-ross-molony Ryan alongside Ross Molony. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I have probably tried to watch more footage the last year or two and it’s part of my game I identified that I want to keep growing and focusing on,” says Ryan.

“We figured that the Bulls had just come off the back of a Currie Cup and it was a pretty tight turnaround before the URC and they probably weren’t going to change a lot. So the analysis we did as a group paid off, we were happy with that because I think the set-piece against those big power-based teams is such an important part of the game now.”

Ryan is feeling fit and fresh at the start of this campaign, having enjoyed a decent pre-season with Leinster after captaining Ireland in their two July Tests, clearing himself of some of the niggling injury issues that hampered him last season.

Of course, Ryan would have loved to be part of the Lions tour of South Africa but he hasn’t been dwelling on the disappointment of being left out of Warren Gatland’s squad.

“I had a good break over the summer and I got away, it was nice to get some heat in the bones again.

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“Then I just moved on. I’m not going to dwell on it, the disappointment. Careers aren’t a linear graph, are they? They’re ups and downs.

“Just like anybody else, I’m looking to improve now and push on as a player. That’s the great thing about the sport that I play – there is always another week, there is always another season until I get a bit older.

“So I’m delighted to be back in and looking forward to another big season and hopefully pushing on as a player.” 

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey chat all things URC and Ireland Women on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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