Not enough to just fit in, Rory Best demands a little leadership from James Ryan

The 21-year-old won’t be a passenger on his first senior start for Ireland.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IT MAY BE just a fourth cap and a first senior Test start awaiting James Ryan tomorrow, but Ireland captain Rory Best wants him to do more than just click in like a new cog.

Ryan will join Best in Ireland’s tight five for the closing November Test against Argentina (kick-off 17.30) having been selected ahead of the totemic Devin Toner.

Those are big shoes to fill – in every sense – so while Joe Schmidt referred to the man he first witnessed running riot for Leinster U16s as ‘just a kid’ yesterday, Best isn’t expecting the 21-year-old to need shepherding through the contest.

“We want him to fit in, and we want him to make a difference as well by playing his own game. But we also want him to be contributing as a leader. And I’ve no doubt that from the early signs, that will come,” the hooker said after leading the captain’s run at a chilly Aviva Stadium.

“You’re born with that physical presence, but it’s making sure we get the most out of that.

“There’s no point being this big, physical character if you go into your shell.

“We’ve seen bits of it and the fact he captained the U20s shows that he’s a big character and it’s important we get that out of him.

It’s important we get that out of him and he doesn’t just try to fit in, he fits in and adds something as well.”

Of course, having an assured, decisive Ryan will impact Best directly when it comes to the line-out. With Toner benched, Iain Henderson will take over calling a set-piece which will have to function differently without the veteran 6′ 11″ lock.

James Ryan Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s very athletic, what he lacks in experience he makes up in speed and his lifting ability. He just has a presence and hopefully we’ll see that tomorrow.”

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Ryan was an inspirational figure of the Irish team that pushed their way to the World Rugby U20 Championship Final in 2016. But coming in around the big boys, the established, grizzled men of Irish rugby is another step up and it would be understandable if Ryan was to resist the urge to speak up or bark orders at men like Best who are 14 years his senior.

“It’s hard to come in and pick up the calls and there are a lot of big characters.

The Ireland team huddle Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“What you see is a hunger for improvement, a hunger for information. And that, for me is the sign of a really good leader; he wants to know exactly what his role is, but also the wider role in the team is. So he can make sure everyone around him is doing the right thing.”

“It’s difficult because he wants to come in and fit in, and we’re asking him to take another step. That next step will be imposing himself on the game and also contributing as a leader.”

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