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Ruddock carrying form and fire from World Cup to Leinster duty

The back row was a stand-out in Ireland’s disappointing stint in Japan and he is primed to continue his form as European competition gets under way.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

MIDWAY THROUGH THE interview Rhys Ruddock is asked if he had been aware of a clamour for him to be given greater involvement in Ireland’s World Cup campaign?

“From my parents?”

There wasn’t much else about World Cup reviews to laugh about.

The abiding memory of Ruddock in Japan was his powerful drive through Russian contact and off into space. True, it was against the weakest team in the pool. But Ruddock appeared to be the only Ireland player to be hitting the heights a top-ranked team expects of themselves.

The back row was surplus to requirements for the win over Samoa. And if the plan had been to hold him back, spring-loaded for the All Blacks. The plan back-fired as Ruddock was sent into the fray at 29-0.

The versatile flanker, who turned 29 yesterday, admits he engaged in some tough conversations with his coaches about what was needed to break into the team.

He will keep his counsel on how those conversations went. A model professional, Ruddock made a concerted effort to take the selection blows on his chin and focus his energy on ensuring the men ahead of him were set up to perform.

“It’s a tricky balance. Once you’re part of a team the games come thick and fast,” Ruddock says, “so you don’t want to be sapping energy or anything. It’s part of being a professional.

“You find your reason (for being left out) and you move on and you’ve got to commit to preparing the team as best you can.”

There was a time and place for uncorking that disappointment. Ruddock says he had ‘a week of feeling sorry for myself’ after the quarter-final exit. But as he sits steadily in Leinster’s UCD there is a steely confidence and forward focus about Ruddock that promises a rebuttal to his exclusion from Ireland’s starting back row.

He made his return to provincial colours off the bench during last Friday’s 11-42 win in Galway, but the Champions Cup kick-off against Benetton at the RDS this Saturday is where he really wants to make his mark.

“Obviously I’m going to be disappointed not to be involved a bit more. But anyone who is competitive and wants to challenge themselves in big games would feel the same way.

“Look, there’s so much competition in here and there’s such a condensed block of huge games, I couldn’t afford to mull on it.

“I had my week of feeling sorry for myself and mulling things over. And then, to come back into this environment and have huge challenges ahead of us and also competition for places and massive excitement for huge games coming up has kind of allowed me to be able to move on and have a new focus – which has been positive.

He adds: “From experience, any time  you have a disappointment and anything that hurts that much, you’ll always take learnings from it and you’ll always carry it around with you a bit in games. And it will give you a bit of an extra edge.

“So, as disappointing as things were, to be able to use it as fuel to become a better player and make you do everything you can to get some success in the future can be a positive.”

 

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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