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'Ronan can come here and set a marker for himself - this is a great opportunity'

Lions forwards coach Robin McBryde has said Irishman Ronan Kelleher has impressed in their training camp this week.

Ronan Kelleher training with the Lions.
Ronan Kelleher training with the Lions.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Jun 17th 2021, 8:05 PM

ROBIN MCBRYDE, THE Leinster forwards coach who is moonlighting with the British and Irish Lions this summer, has tipped Ronan Kelleher to become an improved player on the back of his stint working with Warren Gatland’s squad at their Jersey training camp.

Kelleher, the young hooker who made his debut for Ireland just last year, has been placed on standby by Gatland for this summer’s tour to South Africa, but was catapulted into the training camp after two of the selected hookers, Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie, were temporarily unavailable due to club fixtures with Saracens and Exeter, respectively.

This practice does create the prospect of Kelleher feeling like the kid who misses the school trip – in that he will board one flight back to Dublin while everyone else gets on another one to South Africa. McBryde, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“He will grow undoubtedly from this experience,” said the Welsh coach. “There were some close calls (in selection) and Ronan’s was one of those.

“The conversation I had with Warren with regards to him, we knew we were going to have only one hooker (in this training week with Jamie and Luke involved with their clubs) so the opportunity (to get someone in to train with the squad) would have been wasted on someone who was not on our standby list.

“This gives Ronan an opportunity to make an impression on the other coaches. I am familiar working with Ronan from a Leinster point of view. And I had no doubts he would come here and set a marker for himself. This is a great opportunity for him. We have 14 forwards but at least we can do a few scrum sessions against one another.

“It is a great from a team, squad, a pack, perspective to have that ability to do all that hard work and then from Ronan’s point of view, it is great for him as well to have that experience of working with the best of the best. It will help him grow as an individual. It works both ways. You never know, he could join us late on (in South Africa if there is an injury to one of his rival hookers) as well.”

ronan-kelleher Kelleher scrums down in Jersey. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jack Conan is one of seven Irish players who has already joined up and is a player McBryde rates highly.

“He is very effective as a ball carrier; he has got ability in the lineout; he has grown in that area and he can grow further.

“I think he will learn from the best players in his own position. So, from Jack’s point of view, this will accelerate his development because once he learns from other players, from other coaches, from being in this training environment, he will get better. Everybody has to do their stuff, in training, in matches. Any player here currently are going to learn and benefit from the experience.”

In a wider context, McBryde feels the week’s camp in Jersey is vital for the series ahead.

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“The work we do here, the principles we put in place, has to be pretty much nailed on before the time we leave here because when we get to South Africa, it will be a pretty packed schedule.

“South Africa are going to be a very hard team to break down.

“As a pack of forwards, it is going to be a big challenge at set-piece time, we saw how effective they were, how big an impact their scrum had in the World Cup final. As well as that, they pretty much block off the middle and the tail of the line-out from an attacking point of view, in terms of getting quality ball in there.

“Defensively they are very strong, very organised. In attack their maul had a big part in winning that last penalty against Wales in that semi-final. The challenge is clear to see for everybody in terms of the strength of their bench, the 6/2 split.

“They have the bomb squad coming on, the front row (replacements). That shows their strength in depth. The challenge is there, it is plain to see. It will be a physical one. We need to be 100 per cent clear on what we are working on.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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