Ryan keen to leave his own mark
Published 31/01/2013 | 08:15
Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan is eager to forge his own identity as he continues to fill the void left by Paul O'Connell's injury-enforced absence.
O'Connell will miss the entire RBS 6 Nations after undergoing back surgery, while a knee problem ruled him out of the summer tour to New Zealand. The 2009 Lions captain has been an inspirational figure for Ireland since his debut in 2002, but his spells in the treatment room have enabled Ryan to establish himself as an abrasive and athletic presence in the Test arena.
An outstanding autumn earned Ryan glowing reports and the rugged 29-year-old is a contender for the Lions tour to Australia this summer and he said: "We all know the calibre of Paul and I put pressure on myself to live up to that."
The Munster forward added: "It's an unfortunate situation for Paul. He's a fantastic guy and is great to play alongside.
"He's very knowledgeable in everything that he does, but that's the way the game goes - when someone gets an injury you have to make the most of the chance.
"I'm not going to emulate what Paul does, but I certainly want to put my stamp on things. That's the main thing."
The fixture has become a sore point for the Irish, who have lost three in a row including the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Wellington.
Both Six Nations defeats in that sequence were controversial, with 2011 overshadowed by Wales' unlawfully-taken quick line-out, while last year the harsh sin-binning of Stephen Ferris enabled Leigh Halfpenny to kick the 80th-minute match-winning penalty.
"You hate losing, no matter who you play against, but I was there last year and that was very disappointing," Ryan said. "That defeat highlights the importance of the first game and we want to get it right this time so that we build some momentum."