'If Murray is playing that first half for England, he's probably man of the match'

Ireland lock James Ryan says the forwards need to make life easier for Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.

Updated Feb 25th 2020, 3:00 PM

IRELAND SECOND ROW James Ryan has defended halfbacks Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton amid criticism of their performances in Sunday’s defeat to England at Twickenham.

Ireland captain Sexton missed two kicks at goal and had a few other errant touches, while Murray delivered a couple of poor box kicks as Andy Farrell’s side were well beaten by an impressive England team in last weekend’s Six Nations clash.

Sexton and Murray have faced plenty of criticism in the wake of Ireland’s loss in London but Ryan says the Irish forward pack need to take responsibility for making their halfbacks’ lives difficult.

conor-murray-dejected-after-the-game A dejected Conor Murray after Ireland's defeat. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland were 17-0 down at half-time after a poor first-half performance and Ryan feels Murray and Sexton were left under pressure by the lack of quality from up front.

“We know we’ve got to start much better and we’ve just got to be much more relentless with our physicality, with our aggression,” said Ryan today.

“But also probably our shape could have been better as well. We’re not making the lives of Mur and Johnny easy as forwards when we’re too slow to load off nine and 10. So we’re too slow to get set and then when we are set, it’s just kind of one-off runner.

“You’re feeding exactly into England’s game plan, they want to get off the line and get stuck in and smash you. But if we’re working harder and working earlier to get into position off nine and 10, offering several options as opposed to one, what you’re doing is you’re giving the defence uncertainty – can we play front door or will we play out the back? 

“But when we’re a bit slow to set and we’re kind of giving that English defence certainty, we’re going backwards and it’s very hard for Mur and Johnny to kind of get any foothold in the game when that’s happening.”

Indeed, Ryan believes that had Ireland’s halfbacks had the kind of platform England’s forwards delivered for Ben Youngs and George Ford, they too would have thrived.

“If Murray is playing that first half for England, he’s probably man of the match, do you know what I mean? But unfortunately, we’ve got to look at ourselves as a forward pack,” said Ryan.

“We’ve got to look at the physical exchanges there and review it and hopefully we’ll grow from it. Obviously there another massive two weeks ahead after this week with a lot to play for still in the championship.

_R2I9879 James Ryan is brand ambassador for Revive Active. Source: Andres Poveda


“So, I’ve full confidence that we’re heading in the right direction, and then we’ll take on board the key messages from this game. It’s obviously very disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do now – we just have to learn from it.”

Ireland are currently on a two-day break before regathering on Wednesday in Dublin for their next training camp under head coach Farrell.

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Ryan understands that Ireland’s own review of the England game will be as harsh as necessary but says he and the other Irish players will be doing their best to avoid the criticism from outside their environment as much as possible.

The 23-year-old is steering clear of social media for now.

“I wouldn’t see as much of it, we wouldn’t probably have as much access as other people might because I wouldn’t go actively reading what people are saying and stuff,” said Ryan.

“Obviously you come across it, I think you’ve just got to understand that everyone’s entitled to a point of view and whatever that is you’ve just kind of got to say ‘fair enough’ and move on.

“I suppose the key messages that we take on board, and how we grow are the messages that we receive from the management who ultimately see the bigger picture.

“Certainly from the game, they will be the voices we’ll be listening to – the coaches from the review. That will form the basis of our thinking, as opposed to what people are saying from outside.”

James Ryan is brand ambassador for Irish super supplement range Revive Active which includes Zest Active, an everyday nutritional supplement with 25 active ingredients, delivering multiple benefits in 1 handy powdered sachet. 

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