Tommy Dickson/INPHO
# 6 Nations
James Ryan relishing return to Twickenham
While many generations in Irish rugby are scarred by Twickenham, the 23-year-old has only fond memories of playing there.

OVER THE COURSE of rugby history, the balance of power in England-Ireland Tests rests firmly with the rose.

Twickenham was especially forboding for so many Irish teams. Teams who would back themselves to run anyone close on home turf, were routinely torn asunder.

Four wins there this century is impressive by comparison, a notable chunk of the 14 successful missions Ireland have managed since the RFU made Twickenham their regular haunt in 1910.

Those four wins leave an imprint on perception. This generation of players, and fan, ought not to have carried scars of away trips to Twickenham past, until August’s record defeat.

Talk of vengeance and points to be proven will be played down. And, for James Ryan, it’s the truth. He didn’t play in the 57-15 pre-World Cup hiding. Indeed his only experience of playing in Twickenham is a glorious Grand Slam, when the temperature was very different.

“That whole day was a bit of a blur, I think because I was so new on the scene I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what a Triple Crown and a Grand Slam was,” says the second row.

It felt normal for the 23-year-old. He doesn’t remember a time before there was a trophy for the Triple Crown, recalling Shane Horgan’s 2006 stretch to snatch a late win as the first one he watched Ireland claim.

guinness-six-nations-triple-crown-and-championship-trophy-as-james-ryan-runs-out Inpho / Billy Stickland Ryan runs out past the Triple Crown and Six Nations trophies at the Aviva last year. Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

In 2018, the big plate was very much an aside as Ireland celebrated the Slam. But the year that followed has left a clearer valuation on the prize available to Andy Farrell’s side this weekend.

“It’s only two years ago but I think even now I’m a bit more understanding and have perspective of an achievement like that, but that was very much a blur of ‘this unbelievable, this great’.

“I went on the pints and didn’t actually reflect on what we’d just done. So, yeah, obviously I’m aware of the history and how big that is. Maybe a couple more years on me, I’m a bit wiser.”

Wise enough to not ignore the more recent history. He did play in the 20-32 home loss to Eddie Jones’ men last year. The old enemy may not be on the upward curve that brought them crashing through New Zealand en route to the World Cup final, but in their first home match of the year they won’t be caught off guard.

“We will look at them. I think we should look at them,” Ryan says of the heavy losses Ireland suffered last year.

“The bulk of this week was about fixing little bits that I think we can from the Wales game, things like our clinical edge. We thought we might have left a couple of scores out there and we might not get as many opportunities next week as we did last week.

james-ryan Gary Carr / INPHO Ryan on the charge against Wales. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“So, we have to make sure that when we get close to England’s line we take our opportunities.

“Next week we’ll start to look more at England and we will look at the game.

“We know from that game (in August) that it can be a simple game and for a lot of that we just lost the collisions and were on the back-foot and, when you’re on the back-foot from first-phase and second-phase off scrum and lineout you’re just chasing the game.

“With the ball-carriers they have, it’s a very difficult place to be.

I think being up for the fight is a big one for us, as it always is.”

“I think, physically, you’ve got to be right up there. When we’re at our best it’s when we have that physical edge about us. It’s when we’ve had success with Leinster, at our province, and it’s when we’ve had success with Ireland. It might look like we’re playing all this flashy stuff but that all comes on the back of us being direct and physical, winning the gainline. 

“England would be right up there at the top of the bunch in terms of that so we’ve got to be on top of our A game in terms of that perspective. We know we can be, we’ve done it before.

“The pack that we have, the quality is such that when we have that bit of our game right then we can be a serious force.”

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