Sunday 25 June 2017

McLaughlin's plight a warning - Ryan

18 December 2014; Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin during a press conference ahead of their Guinness PRO12, Round 10, match against Connacht on Friday. Leinster Rugby Press Conference, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
18 December 2014; Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin during a press conference ahead of their Guinness PRO12, Round 10, match against Connacht on Friday. Leinster Rugby Press Conference, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

Kevin McLaughlin's retirement as a result of concussion has helped reinforce the importance of life after rugby for his team-mate and close friend Dominic Ryan.

McLaughlin suffered a career-ending head knock against Edinburgh in the season-opening Pro12 game and Ryan admitted the news came as a huge shock to the Leinster dressing room.

The Leinster flanker narrowly missed out on Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad but recent events have shaped his outlook and he is determined to maximise his playing career while also preparing for his future.

"Obviously it's a minor kind of hiccup along a career versus a massive one that finishes your career. Since we've been in the Academy, it's been drilled into us, life after rugby. Rugby isn't everything," Ryan said.

"It's one of those things you don't think about too much injury-wise, and having to retire through injury. You don't want to think about it. But if it happens, you have to deal with it.

"I was very close with Eoin O'Malley when he was forced to retire and he was even younger. It's rugby, and it's a pretty brutal sport, it can be taken away from you like that."

Having both been educated at Gonzaga College and worked together in the Leinster scrum, Ryan and McLaughlin formed a bond and he has backed the Dubliner to bounce back and maintain his strong links with the squad.

Ryan has great sympathy with McLaughlin's situation and it devastates him that a career and passion which has been developing for years can be taken away so suddenly.

"He'd be one of the guys I'd be close within the squad. It's quite tough for him, especially not really having any kind of prior notice.

"Maybe some other guys who had to retire through injury, might see it coming for a few weeks but his was just 24 hours later," the 25-year-old said.

"I think for him, he had a lot more to give to the club. It's tough when it's your head, because the rest of your body might want to say, 'Yeah, you're fine to go', and he might feel that 'I'm fine to take to the field'.

"But it is your head. So, if you're being advised by three independent doctors to give it a rest, I think it's best.

"It's only a week. Let himself and his family and his wife kind of look after it and he'll be back in here in a bit."

Despite his World Cup disappointment, Ryan has been engrossed in the action and feels there is much to be learned ahead of tomorrow's RDS clash with the Dragons.

Complacency will not be an issue after last season's two reversals, he said.

"You have more respect for them and you also have a bit more venom in that we owe them one from last year.

"Particularly the home game hurt quite a bit. We pride ourselves on winning in the RDS and we lost to the Dragons, who at the time were quite a bit below us in the table.

"Come the end of the season a result like that means the difference between getting into the top four or not, especially when you lose by a point."

Small margins often decide titles and Ryan feels particular emphasis must be placed on keeping the penalty count to a minimum while also dominating the scrum.

"The Dragons have a good scrum when they get it right and from the first two rounds of the Pro12, we need to get our discipline right," he stressed.

"We gave Cardiff and Edinburgh 15 points, so we're going to focus big time on our own discipline."

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