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Ruddock not back in Ireland plans but still 'driving everyone else' in Leinster

The 29-year-old back row is in excellent form early on in the new season.

Ruddock has captained Leinster in their last two games.
Ruddock has captained Leinster in their last two games.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MANY WILL FEEL that Rhys Ruddock should be in Ireland camp right now preparing for the clash with Wales in a week’s time.

But for Leinster, there is some relief at having the 29-year-old remain in their set-up. 

Ruddock, who will turn 30 next week, has made three starts for his province so far in the 2020/21 season and has been captain from the number eight shirt in their two most recent wins, delivering excellent performances that have set the tone for his side.

Leinster have great depth, of course, but given how many players they lose to Ireland camp, having a leader like Ruddock around at a time like this is invaluable.

“Having Rhys as captain, he says all the right things,” explains Leinster lock Ross Molony.

“He can really rally lads behind him and when he starts a game, he is everywhere – covering the backfield at times, running over lads, adding his thoughts to the lineout and scrum, everything.

“It’s huge confidence for me and the lads in the squad, the younger lads who are trying to see the level that is required. It drives everyone else around him when lads see that.”

Ruddock had been having a very tough 2020 up until his excellent form early on this season.

Having been very unlucky to make only one start at the 2019 World Cup – with two further replacement appearances – despite his good form in Japan, Ruddock was then left out of Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad for the Six Nations earlier this year.

The ever-honest Ruddock subsequently accepted Farrell’s suggestion that his form hadn’t been good post-World Cup but other senior players remained in the Ireland group even without strong form behind them.

Of course, Covid-19 soon struck and Ruddock was unfortunate to be slowed down by a couple of injury niggles just before rugby restarted in August, which didn’t help when it came to selection for the big knock-out games of the delayed 2019/20 season, particularly given Leinster’s back row depth.

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rhys-ruddock-celebrates-after-the-game Ruddock last played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Even still, many Leinster fans would have picked Ruddock – a proper warhorse – for the battle with Saracens. His edge and leadership may well have been useful.

Happily, Ruddock is now injury-free and underlining just how good a rugby player he is. 

The 36-times capped back row has captained his country and is highly regarded by his fellow players but Farrell has overlooked him for the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup, even with Jack Conan dropping out of the Ireland squad due to a neck injury.

“We think Rhys is a great player, he’s a physical specimen,” said Farrell yesterday 

“He’s coming back actually trying to find some form, playing away at Leinster, but we feel like we’ve got some good back rowers in here as well.” 

And so, Ruddock will keep impressing for Leinster, playing a crucial role as they look to continue their 100% start to the new season.

“He’s very important as a leader, especially for this group and this part of the season,” said Leinster assistant coach Felipe Contepomi. “He has been great for the whole team.

“In terms of his performances, I’m glad for him because sometimes when you have niggles, one here and one there, and you can’t get it right, it’s frustrating.

“But now he is putting in performances week in, week out and training in every session. That’s great for him and ultimately gives him the chance to be well prepared for those games.

“It’s great to have him around right now with so many young players coming through.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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