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Returning Ryan adds quality as Leinster weigh up changes for Pro14 final

The 24-year-old second row has fully recovered from his shoulder injury.

ULSTER’S CHALLENGE WAS already big enough before yesterday’s confirmation that James Ryan is available to Leinster for the Guinness Pro14 final this weekend.

After the 24-year-old was held back for last weekend’s semi-final win against Munster, he is set to be involved in the decider in the Aviva Stadium and it would be no surprise to see him come straight into the starting team.

While it would be Ryan’s first appearance since playing for Ireland against England back in February, he has been training superbly in recent weeks by all accounts and has overcome his shoulder injury thanks to diligence with his rehab.

james-ryan Ryan is set for his return in the Pro14 final. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It’s always great to have players like James available and he’s been looking good,” said Leinster assistant coach Felipe Contepomi yesterday.

“I think he’s a guy with such a quality that if he’s fit, it just shows the quality of the player he is and he’s made a really good recovery.

“For his young age, he’s so mature that he really has a lot of self control and an understanding of the situation. Probably he’s bursting inside to go and raring to go, but he shows that poise and calmness of a 30-plus-year-old and he’s only 20-plus.”

The availability of Tadhg Furlong and Dan Leavy is still uncertain but Contepomi said both are “quite advanced in their return.”

If they don’t make it, Leinster aren’t exactly short on options.

Their selection for this weekend’s final will be fascinating, with a host of strong contenders to consider and a Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens to come the week after.

It does seem likely Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster will keep the changes to a minimum as they look to retain their Pro14 crown.

Josh van der Flier will be desperate for another chance at openside following Will Connors’ two impressive outings in the number seven shirt, while Ryan coming into the second row would obviously mean a rejig there too.

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josh-van-der-flier-comes-up-against-peter-omahony-in-a-maul Josh van der Flier will be eager to get another shot at seven. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ed Byrne has been very impressive in recent weeks and there may be temptation to give players like him and out-half Ross Byrne, who has another strong Pro14 season behind him, an opportunity in this final. Jamison Gibson-Park’s form at scrum-half is hard to ignore too.

Leinster are in the enviable position of having scope to shake things up and still field an extremely strong match day 23.

“It’s about getting who is ready to go and to do a job for the whole 53 players that took us to that final,” said Contepomi.

“Unfortunately it’s only 23 that will be able to step onto the pitch, but they represent 53 players that made a huge effort throughout the whole year for us to be where we are now.

“So I think everyone understands that and we all work with the same common goal, that is hopefully Leinster being the champions and that’s our goals.

“So even if you’re not in that 23 you have a big part to play, and they understand that.

“And for the guys who are chosen to represent Leinster at the weekend, they know the responsibility that comes with it because they know that other guys are just outside the sideline and wanting to be there.

“So it’s a good place to be at the moment, in terms of they understand exactly the guys that are playing are the luckiest ones or the ones that got the nod.

“But it’s very hard to make some decisions there, they’re so, so tight.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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