Relieved Ryan taking everything in his stride after lengthy spell out
Fit-again Munster star admits he didn't expect to make cut as he revels in competition for second-row places
Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30
Donnacha Ryan admits that he is in bonus territory. There were times during his 13 months out of the game that people on the streets were wishing him well in his 'retirement'.
It's not the type of situation that a player who has ambitions of playing at the World Cup wants to find himself in but it made Ryan more determined to get over a complicated foot injury that is more common among ballerinas.
As a 6ft 7in, 18 stone international second-row, the comparisons with the graceful dancers are somewhat limited but Ryan has come back stronger than ever and recently clocked his fastest sprint time.
It's a testament to his desire but the lengthy period out of the game has also made him mentally stronger.
"It was us up and down. I learned an awful lot about myself," he says.
"I'm trying to park it now and move on and try to get better and not over-think things too much further down the line.
"I used to think things two or three years down the line, which is not a safe thing to do in rugby. So it gives you massive perspective.
"Everybody goes through injuries and it does test your mettle but I was fortunate enough to have fantastic people around me and the physios were fantastic.
"I've learned an awful lot about feet in the meantime as well. I've been able to consult with a lot of other individuals who've had the injury.
"A few other players have had it and have been in touch with me as well and it's great to be able to give them as much advice as I can from my experience."
On the Sunday that Joe Schmidt was naming his 31-man World Cup squad, Ryan was driving back down the M7, fully expecting to be part of Munster's training session the following morning.
Such was his limited game-time in the last year, he had accepted that he may not have done enough to force his way into the reckoning.
"I wasn't confident of being here a few months ago," Ryan says. "So I'm just delighted and very grateful. I'm enjoying training and the atmosphere. It's been fantastic so far and just trying to get better every day."
"I used to get very stressed out about things, in a good way. I'd put massive pressure on myself to perform. Obviously I didn't want to let anyone down.
"I love the pressure and now I'm really, really enjoying it. I'm taking things in a systematic approach and not letting things get out of my control."
During his time out injured, Ryan has seen Devin Toner form a solid partnership with Paul O'Connell before Iain Henderson's barnstorming displays propelled him to the top of the pecking order.
Throughout his career, though, Ryan has always been faced with stiff competition for places and he maintains that it brings a kind of pressure that he thrives under.
"It's great. It's not something I've been unfamiliar with in the second-row," he stresses.
"I've been behind Paul (O'Connell) and Donners (Donncha O'Callaghan) for a long time and stuck with it, so it's not something I'm unaccustomed to.
"I love competition. It brings the best out of guys and it brings the best out me, I think. I love the pressure of the games and the more of that the better.
"That's why I love playing at the top level, I suppose.
"It's better to be competitive to play at that top level and enjoy playing those pressure games.
"Iain's a fantastic player. He's great. He's really, really good. He's a very smart guy - he hides it well, but he's very smart! He's a great guy and a very funny lad about the place as well.
"I've played with Paulie for years and Dev I've played for years as well. We have a great synergy with each other. We're always popping things off each other all the time.
"Having that kind of cohesiveness is fantastic. We can feed off one another and give each other tips."
Having come off the bench against Canada last weekend, Ryan is likely to be given a chance to impress from the start for the meeting with Romania on Sunday.
His ability to be able to cover the back-row as well as the second-row makes him a key part of Schmidt's grand plan.
"My game is about high work-rate and since coming back I've been very blessed in that my speed has gone up an awful lot, which has been great," he says.
"The fitness has been very good so I've been trying to be as aggressive as possible and just basically really enjoying it."