Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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Munster man Ryan gets major opportunity in Ireland's number three shirt
The 29-year-old played a part in the Grand Slam success and now starts against the Wallabies.

Murray Kinsella reports from Brisbane

A GOOD WEEK for the Ryans.

John, the Munster tighthead prop, has been handed Ireland’s starting number three shirt for the first Test against the Wallabies tomorrow, while his younger brother, Willie, confirmed a move to Doncaster Knights in the England Championship for next season.

Joey Carbery’s inclusion was understandably the main talking point in Australia and at home after Ireland named their team, but Ryan getting his fourth start under Schmidt is big news as well.

The 29-year-old’s three starts so far have come against the US and Japan, meaning this is a first top-tier opportunity from the off for the Cork man.

John Ryan Dan Sheridan / INPHO John Ryan in Brisbane. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It wasn’t a perfect season for Ryan with Munster – Stephen Archer started ahead of him in the Champions Cup – but Schmidt has kept the faith and would have been encouraged to see Ryan in such excellent form against Leinster in the Pro14 semi-finals recently.

Having come off the bench against South Africa and Argentina last November, Ryan also made two replacement appearances versus France and Wales during Ireland’s Grand Slam run and very much felt he played a role in the success.

“I definitely felt a part of it,” said Ryan in Brisbane yesterday. “How many players have won a Grand Slam? To be part of two pretty important games – obviously all the games are important – and everyone wants to be on the pitch in Twickenham and wants to be involved.

“I was over there but in the capacity of being a reserve [with Andrew Porter on the bench], but I felt just as much a part of it. I was lucky enough.

“A lot of the boys who were selected, who actually played, weren’t over there in Twickenham, guys like Chris Farrell. It was great to be there. Everyone felt a part of it, it was a big effort from the whole squad and we weren’t kicking the crap out of each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays just to be the bibs. We felt a real part of it.”

The fact that he was so involved with Ireland was important to Ryan maintaining his confidence, with Archer getting the nod for many of Munster’s biggest games.

However, Ryan says the fact that Archer was starting ahead of him didn’t quite eat away at him.

“I don’t think it did because I knew I had the same ability because I was still doing the work, the same work in the scrum,” says the Cork Con man. “When he was ahead of me, it was because they preferred him and that was it. I got with it.

John Ryan during training Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ryan packs down in training. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There were times obviously when I was disappointed not to be starting in the European games but then I got a big confidence boost from being selected for Ireland in November and to go back and be an impact sub, I was coming on after 45 or 50 minutes, it wasn’t as if I was just getting 10 minutes each match.

“I still had a big part to play in our games and then got another lift to play in the Six Nations.”

Aside from his three starts for Ireland, Ryan’s appearances for Ireland – he has 13 caps in total – have tended to be short stints, rarely exceeding 20 minutes.

Ryan puts that down to Tadhg Furlong’s immense fitness, pointing out that it’s slightly different on the loosehead side with Jack McGrath and Cian Healy.

“Jack and Cian get 50/30 splits, it is now as clear as day whereas when it is Tadhg starting, he has got a good engine so it is usually around 60 minutes when there is a chance.

“Not taking anything away from Jack or Cian but the two boys are pretty evenly matched. So, I am expecting Tadhg to get the nod at about 50 or 60. That is just the way it is at the moment with props, there is no 80-minute prop anymore.”

Having enjoyed the winning feeling with Ireland so recently, Ryan is hungry to taste more of it and helping Schmidt’s team to a first series success in Australia since 1979 is very much in his thoughts.

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“We have been reminded about that by Phil Orr [the IRFU president], he played then.”

John Ryan Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ryan shifts some tin in the gym. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

There doesn’t seem to be much fear in Ireland’s thoughts, as they take on the Wallabies from a position as the second-best team in world rugby.

“The young lads coming through, or even late bloomers like myself, I have a pretty big appetite for winning games,” says Ryan. “Then you have the likes of James Ryan, Andrew Porter, those lads, they are all trying to make a name for themselves.

“There is such talent in Ireland, whereby if you don’t do a job, the next fella will. So you just have to have your head on because there is that fella behind you who has a target on your back and who will leapfrog you.

“That is the main driver. Competition is the biggest driving force behind you.”

- This article was updated to correct ‘older’ to ‘younger’ in the second paragraph.

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