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Ryan makes it a family affair

WHEN the World Cup is as far away from home as it's possible to get, it's good to have some family around.

Ireland forward Donnacha Ryan made his tournament debut in last weekend's Pool C win over Russia, with his parents in the crowd to see him make only his third international start in the green shirt.

And Ryan says having them around lets him appreciate the excitement of a World Cup that many players find themselves isolated from.

"It's great having them around," he said. "It gets you out of the hotel and gives you a few stories from ground level about what's happening with the supporters."

Those fans have been a feature of Ireland's World Cup campaign, which has so far featured a famous victory over Tri-Nations champion Australia among three straight wins.


One more victory on Sunday against Italy and the travelling supporters -- the 'Blarney Army' as they have been dubbed by some local media -- will have a quarter-final spot to enjoy.

"We went out after the Russia game just to meet some of the supporters and friends," Ryan smiled. "I'm probably incriminating myself here, but I was in a pub for an hour -- no more -- and it was as if they'd uprooted a pub from Dublin and brought it here.

"Unfortunately, I think the bar ran out of drink. I had nothing to do with that. They didn't legislate for the amount of Irish lads."

And the locals have scarcely been less supportive, although that's perhaps predictable given New Zealanders' glee at seeing near neighbours Australia embarrassed by the Irish. Although Dunedin -- the venue for Sunday's final Pool C match -- has strong links to Scotland, stretching back to the 19th century, locals have greeted the Irish warmly.

Ryan said the players are finding ways to pass the time.

"We have the casino here at the team hotel, which has been a bit of a distraction for a few lads," Ryan said.

"I've tried a few slot machines but sadly the only machine I'm winning any money out of is the ATM!"