Captain Ryan leads U-20s from the front in glorious run
Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30
He's known as 'JR' in the group and long before this World Rugby U-20 Championship became a glory run for Ireland, James Ryan had set himself out as a player destined to go all the way after series of outstanding performances in the Six Nations.
Being captain has brought other duties, including a rooftop garden media gig in midweek for Sky Sports and other journalists, but if he is burdened by becoming one of the few people to lead Ireland into a world championship final, the Blackrock native ain't showing it. He's taking it all in his stride.
"It is where we want to be at this stage of the tournament. It's a privilege to be in that spot. It's going to be a huge contest so the boys are already excited for what's going to be a massive clash.
"Sometimes I have to pinch myself because Ireland don't often reach finals at age-grade level. They best they have done at U-20 championships is fourth. To be heading into a final is history itself. We are not satisfied with second place, so we are looking to win that game," said the former St Michael's College captain who is now studying Politics and History in UCD along with the Leinster academy.
His dad Mark is a former Leinster player who is now involved with the Leinster professional games board, while mum Clare, who is from Clonbur in Co Galway, has also been a huge supporter. His twin Mark, younger brother David and older sister Kate make up the household.
There will be a big contingent coming over for the final tomorrow as Ireland look for their eighth win in a row having lost their opening Six Nations games to Wales and France.
"The first two games were tough. It was a large group and sometimes you can underestimate what that means. We just weren't as gelled as some other teams were.
"Getting smashed in the south of France it's hard to believe that you would go on and win seven games in a row and get into the final. There is a lot of belief in the squad and a belief in the product and what we want to do. And it's a great position to be in now," said the 6'8" lock.
His performances in that run, which started with a comeback win away to England in Newcastle, have attracted a lot of attention but how much of a burden is it to a 19-year-old to be tipped to possibly become the next Paul O'Connell?
"It's not a burden, it's humbling to be compared to someone like that but I don't know if that's very accurate.
"It has been a squad effort. We rotated the squad for Georgia and the lads who played that game really delivered, so everyone has played a part in this," added the Landowne clubman.