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# High praise
'A lot of similarities to Paulie': Earls hails diligent new skipper
James Ryan’s presence is being felt through the Ireland squad.

WHEN A NEW captain comes along, comparisons with the old names on the board are impossible to escape.

Positions differ, but personalities can easily hop from the low numbers to high. Yet it’s clear that James Ryan’s style of leadership will be different to that of the injured Jonathan Sexton.

A marked departure from Rory Best’s style, Sexton is a relentlessly vocal and demonstrative driver. The playmaker and standard-bearer all in one. Ryan strikes you as a quieter influence, a bearer of a big stick.

He was already labelled captaincy material by the time he was called to tour with Ireland in the summer of 2017 – after a hamstring injury kept him from winning a Leinster cap first. But he soon made an impression in the Test arena.

“He was fairly quiet, but you could already see the leadership qualities he had,” said Keith Earls, who was the senior star of Ireland’s tour of the US and Japan.

“The way he prepared himself, the way he went through his detail and prepared off the field. When he took the field he was a different animal, scored with his first touch in international rugby.

He’s been incredible, he’s come on leaps and bounds. Lot of similarities to Paulie.”

Paulie, in case it needs the explanation, is former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain Paul O’Connell. An iconic leader as well as an incredibly effective one. What draws Earls to the comparison?

“Just his mannerisms. The way he comes across and speaks, everyone just listens straight away. He’s got that presence.

“Even off the field, he’s constantly working, constantly looking at line-outs. Trains hard in the gym. And, for a young lad, his body’s been through a lot already and he turns up every week.

“Similar to what Paulie would have done, he’d do whatever it takes to get the win at the weekend.”

While players in the Leinster environment will be slightly better used to seeing Ryan lead his way through a week, this will be the first time the international squad will work with him as the official figurehead.

Another Munster wing, Andrew Conway, sees Ryan’s transition to the mantle being as smooth as all his previous steps up.

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“He’s obviously new enough to (captaincy). As a player there are very few like him that I’ve come across.

“He’s come in and he’s been able to transition (the best) from schools to U20s and he was playing international rugby pretty soon after.

“And instead of what happens a lot of people – they might stall a bit or think they have it sussed.

“He’s a fella who will have his week planned out to get better and he’s constantly adapting and looking to lead through his actions. He’s also looking to lead by communication and bringing people with him.

“As much as I’ve seen of him, there’s nothing bad I’d say about him – obviously I wouldn’t say anything bad about him anyway.”


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