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Ryan pairs up with Roux as Ireland look for 'variation' around ball-carriers

Ireland’s forwards were hammered in the tackle last weekend against England.

JAMES RYAN AND Quinn Roux have played together for Ireland before – including last weekend – but Saturday will be the first time they pack down as Joe Schmidt’s starting locks.

Injuries to Devin Toner, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne have reduced Schmidt’s options in the second row and as Ireland look to bounce back from defeat to England, Schmidt has turned to Roux to fill the gap.

James Ryan Ryan carries the ball against England. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Connacht man will win his 10th Test cap against Scotland in Edinburgh this weekend, as well as earning his first Six Nations start in green.

Ultan Dillane and Billy Holland were Schmidt’s other options, but Roux’s scrummaging power, ruck aggression, tackle dynamism, size and ever-improving handling skill have seen him nudging ahead.

Roux is expected to call Ireland’s lineout this weekend – a vital task.

22-year-old Ryan has carried out this duty for Leinster but is still learning the role and is happy for Roux to take the lead in an area where he is more experienced.

“Quinn has come in and I think he did a really good job off the bench last week,” said Ryan of Roux’s 24-minute appearance against England last weekend.

“He was really physical, he has that experience of calling the lineout with Connacht too.

“He’d have a bit more experience than me in that area but it wouldn’t be something that I’d shy away from.”

It will be interesting to note who scrummages at tighthead lock for Ireland, a fatiguing task that requires excellent power output and work rate.

Roux is renowned as a strong scrummager, but Ryan has been superb at tighthead lock for Ireland recently. 

Moving Ryan across to loosehead lock might ensure the Leinster man can preserve slightly more energy for his dynamic ball-carrying game.

As with all of Ireland’s ball-carriers, Ryan struggled to make a dent in the English defence last week, with his 16 carries bringing him just 17 metres total gain.

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There was no questioning the work-rate and intent of Ireland’s pack in their ball-carrying but 46 dominant tackles from England told a tale of the game and it’s an area where Schmidt will be demanding improvement on Saturday.

Ireland’s Quinn Roux Roux came off the bench last weekend. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ryan believes Ireland’s forwards can learn from last weekend by having more variation around the ball-carrier.

“I think they were really good defenders, certainly a tough team to carry against,” said Ryan of England. “We knew that going in. They have big boys, a pretty big pack.

“I think it’s good experience for us, knowing that some teams are going to try and target us in the pack.

“If our shape is that bit better, we can tip-on to the guy beside us or in behind. That comes into the accuracy part of it. If we get guys lined up quicker, in better shapes, then if they come up hard, you can tip-on to the next guy or play in behind.”

As discussed on The42 this week, Ireland’s ‘animation’ around the ball-carrier in attack was weak against England and Ryan is of the belief that he and his team-mates will benefit from providing more convincing options around the ball.

That will give the player on the ball a chance to shift it if they’re under pressure from a fast-advancing defender, while it will also add more stress to the defenders’ decision-making.

“I think we need more variation,” continued Ryan. “If they are flying out of the line, whoever has the ball can tip-on or play in behind.

“It’s not the first time it has happened, we have faced that kind of aggressive defence before.

“We’re just going to look at getting set that bit quicker this week. If we do that, it will make a big difference.”

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