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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018

'I was at every Leinster final. The Millennium was the best one, for me that stuck out'

21-year-old second row James Ryan is hungry for more trophy success this season.

JAMES RYAN TAKES his rugby very, very seriously but the 21-year-old is able to switch off and have a bit of fun too.

The second row says the days following the Grand Slam success were “unreal craic” and after the Ireland squad had returned to Dublin and spent a night at the Shelbourne Hotel, he ducked away to Galway to continue the celebrations in slightly more relaxed surroundings.

James Ryan James Ryan has won all 19 of his games as a professional player. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

His uncle owns a pub, Lynch’s, in the Gaeltacht village of Clonbur and Ryan put away a few pints of Guinness there during his week off post-Grand Slam.

“I think it’s just as important to celebrate the wins that you do get, so yeah, it was a good few days,” says Ryan, speaking at the launch of the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps at De La Salle Palmerston FC this week.

“You’ve got to enjoy it and savour those moments.”

Not that Ryan let loose completely and took his eye off the ball. His break was followed swiftly by a Champions Cup quarter-final week, which concluded with the lock playing a major role in Leinster’s win over Saracens at the Aviva Stadium last Sunday.

While his work rate was ludicrous again – 17 tackles with no misses, 17 carries for 28 metres, three lineout wins, tighthead lock scrummaging, his usual mountain of ruck hits, and more – Ryan’s assist for Dan Leavy’s try was a standout moment.

Leavy popped it to his fellow St. Michael’s College alumnus off the base of the ruck, before Ryan drew in two Saracens tacklers and deftly passed back inside to Leavy to send the openside flanker scorching through to score.

“The ball was just popped to me I saw in the corner of my eye there was a gap there,” says Ryan.

“I knew he was on the inside. It was a bit flukey but it worked pretty well in the end.

“We knew they don’t defend the base of the ruck so there would be opportunities around the fringes. So there was kind of an idea going into the game.”

2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camp Launch Ryan at the launch of the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

With Leavy having been three years ahead of Ryan in school, they had never played together until they were both professionals – their first time lining out together coming on Ireland’s tour of the US and Japan last summer.

Since then, they have grown into a physically-commanding pair of destroyers who often seem to cause most havoc when working alongside each other in defence or attack.

“I’m not sure,” says Ryan when asked if that’s a tactical ploy or just coincidence. “We’re good mates. But he’s someone who throws his head into anything really. He’s an easy guy to follow in that respect.”

The friendship between the pair has extended to Leavy jokingly telling the media that Ryan has been going around Ireland and Leinster camp calling himself ‘The Big Cheese.’

Ryan laughs when he’s asked to explain the story behind Leavy’s jibes, the second row stating that “there’s only one truth!”

“It’s from a movie ‘Why Him?’” explains Ryan. “The character in that is called The Big Cheese and Max Deegan, Deego, watched it one day and came in and randomly enough he called me Big Cheese out of nowhere.

“A few lads heard it and they found it hilarious and that’s how it stuck.”

So does even Johnny Sexton call Ryan the Big Cheese?

“It kind of varies what he calls me, to be honest!”

James Ryan and Dan Leavy Ryan and Leavy have worked well together on the pitch. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Whatever about the piss-taking nicknames, Ryan is very serious about the matters that remain to be settled on the pitch this season with Leinster.

The Guinness Pro14 title is a target, while the Scarlets come to Dublin in three weekends’ time for the Champions Cup semi-final.

Ryan grew up watching Leinster’s successes in Europe and after a Grand Slam with Ireland, it’s next on his list.

“I was at every Leinster final,” says the lock. “I was in the Millennium, Murrayfield and Twickenham – they were all class games. The Millennium was the best one, for me that stuck out. It was class.

“We all want to win European Cups in Leinster, so that’s the goal for me and everybody else. We’ve won the Grand Slam, done and dusted, and we’ve got a Pro14 and European Cup now to win hopefully.”

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Murray Kinsella

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