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Ruddock family 'hugely proud' with Rhys and Ciaran both at World Cup

Rhys is among Ireland’s back row options, while his older brother Ciaran is part of the S&C team.
Sep 17th 2019, 6:45 AM 17,390 4

SITTING ON THE 24th floor of Ireland’s team hotel in Chiba, with a spectacular view out across Tokyo Bay to their left, the Ruddock brothers are reflecting on what is a hugely proud achievement for their family.

28-year-old Rhys is one of Joe Schmidt’s options in the back row at this World Cup, while 30-year-old Ciaran is part of Ireland’s strength and conditioning team. 

It’s just over 10 years since the Ruddock brothers were in the Ireland U20 squad that travelled to the World Championship in Japan and, though their paths have diverged since, they find themselves back on Japanese soil together a decade on, once again intent on helping Ireland to success. 

ciaran-ruddock-and-rhys-ruddock Ciaran and Rhys have both made it to the 2019 World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s awesome,” says Rhys of being here with his brother. “I was obviously delighted when I found out I was going to be coming and even more so that Ciaran was going to be here to share it with.

“I haven’t seen a huge amount of him because he’s a lot busier than I am with the schedule he’s got at the moment, working hard as always. But it’s definitely amazing to be out here with him and have him beside me.

“It’s hugely proud for the family. They’ve been trying to get updates but the problem is neither of us are great with the phones, to be honest, but they’re full of excitement for both of us.”

Their father is a man with plenty rugby pedigree himself, of course. Mike is head coach of Lansdowne FC back in Dublin, having guided Wales to Grand Slam success in 2005, while also spending a four-year spell in charge of the Ireland U20s.

He has taken an understandable degree of pride in seeing his two sons travel to Japan, as have their mother, Bernadette, and sister, Katie.

While Rhys has earned his place on the pitch with Leinster and Ireland in recent years, winning 23 Test caps so far, Ciaran has taken a different route to make it back to Japan.

He spent three years with the Leinster academy and made five senior appearances for the province but a full professional contract never materialised and he refocused his passion for the physical side of sport into the field of strength and conditioning.

While still excelling on the pitch with St Mary’s College RFC, Ciaran opened a gym in Dublin with his friend Rory McInerney. Fitter, Faster, Stronger remains an important part of his life, but he has balanced his business with involvement in the Ireland set-up since last year. 

ciaran-ruddock-and-rhys-ruddock Ciaran and Rhys at Ireland's team hotel in Chiba. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Ireland’s strength and conditioning coach, Jason Cowman, needing a helping hand as the World Cup build-up kicked into gear, Ruddock was a clever addition – popular with the players and passionate about his work.

“It’s been a brilliant experience,” says Ciaran. “I got the opportunity in November and since then I’ve loved it. It’s been awesome working with Jason. You’ve got a guy there with so much experience and knowledge. It’s been one of the best educational things I have done as a coach, to be able to work with him and learn from him.

“And also to be involved in this environment with so many good coaches, to work with the calibre of athletes I get to work with every day in here and even just the quality of people. Everyone in this environment is brilliant.

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“It’s really a positive and energised environment to be a part of. To have the opportunity to come over here, to Japan, and be part of a World Cup, I’m absolutely delighted with it and loving every minute of it.”

The Ruddocks are hoping for a better time with Ireland in the coming weeks than what they experienced a decade ago, when their U20s team finished eighth in Japan. 

One of the standout memories was the Ireland team, captained by Ciaran, walking down New Zealand’s haka. Unfortunately, a 17-0 defeat followed.

“Doing that and then getting beaten was my memory,” says Rhys, who arrived to the tournament late after finishing school exams. “I think we just felt like we were making a statement but it didn’t work out that way.”

Ciaran takes up the story:

“I was captain because Pete [O'Mahony] was unable to play. It was obviously nerve-racking to do that because you’re not sure how it’s going to go. As I was walking to the pitch, the referee caught wind that we were going to do it and said we weren’t allowed to advance to the haka.

Source: loveforrugby/YouTube

“I was like, ‘It’s way too far gone, we’ve gotta do it!’ We did it anyway and, yeah, it didn’t get us the result we wanted but in terms of experiences as a player, it was unbelievable to do that and to get the opportunity to play against New Zealand for the first time.

“And especially to do it with Rhys. I always enjoyed playing with Rhys and having the opportunity to line up alongside him, whether I was second row and he was flanker or towards the end when I played flanker with him. They were always special.”

Both of their parents came to Japan last time, but with Mike busy at Lansdowne, they’re not sure if or when he will have a chance to travel out to this World Cup, though Rhys underlines that their mother is “dead keen, she’s just looking for a travel buddy to come out with.”

Ciaran says he hasn’t had any issues with the fact that Rhys is his brother when pushing him in Ireland training, commenting that “it has actually been a lot easier than you might think.”

“Ciaran doesn’t pick the team anyway,” adds Rhys with a smile, “so it’s not too bad. “Me and Ciaran are so close. We’ve always lived out of home together. We’re hugely close and I don’t mind being in close proximity, spending a lot of time together. 

“I don’t mind him telling me what to do when he’s such an expert in his field and things like that. If it’s outside of strength and conditioning and that type of stuff, I might push back a bit!

“But I’ve actually worked with him in his gym in Dublin as well and seeing him before he came into this environment, he’s absolutely class at what he does.”

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Murray Kinsella

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