Sunday 15 September 2019

Cian Tracey: 'Awesome Ryan continues to shine as Addison takes his chance'

James Ryan is tackled by Santiago Medrano of Argentina. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
James Ryan is tackled by Santiago Medrano of Argentina. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There are times when watching James Ryan dominate incredibly physical international Tests that it is important to step back and remind ourselves that he only turned 22 less than four months ago.

That he has now become one of the first names on Ireland's team-sheet as the undisputed first-choice lock is a mark of how far Ryan has come in such a short space of time.

The Leinster colossus was comfortably the best player on the pitch against Argentina and the way in which others fed off his relentless energy was one of the major positives from a scrappy performance.

Ryan set the tone in defence by making 13 tackles (missing none), while going forward he was a tour de force. His ability to continually get over the gain line was crucial to Ireland getting clean ball. Only CJ Stander (20) carried the ball more often than Ryan, who made 28 metres for his 18 carries.

He fights for every one of those metres too, and when he is taken to ground, he always ensures that he fights hard to gain a little extra in what Joe Schmidt calls "bodyball". It's an extremely important aspect of the Kiwi's ideology and Ryan embodies that so well with his huge work-rate.

The former St Michael's and Ireland U-20 captain is a man of few words, but he leads by example and is fast becoming one of the best locks in the world. That may seem a bit premature, yet Ryan's level of consistency is such that he would make most teams.

Coming up against Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock this weekend will be an altogether more difficult challenge, however, and how he fares against the two best second-rows in the world will be fascinating.

Most locks don't come into their prime until their late 20s, which is what makes Ryan's ceiling so high.

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It's not just the nuts and bolts like his lineout ability, tackling and carrying that makes Ryan stand out from the rest. He is very effective at the ruck, while his clever defence against the opposition's maul is akin to that of someone who has been playing at this high level for far longer than his second season suggests.

As for the scrum, Ryan's transition to becoming Ireland's (notoriously difficult) tighthead lock has been just as impressive.

When you fuse all of those ingredients you have something close to a complete player, yet the most exciting thing about Ryan is that this is just the beginning of something special.

Addison steps up to the mark

Such was the lateness of his call-up to the starting team, Will Addison's family didn't have time to make the journey over from England.

Having made his debut in Chicago, Addison may have expected to get his first start at the end of the month against America, but he was thrown into the team when Robbie Henshaw felt his hamstring in the warm-up.

Addison possesses that rare ability to make it look like he has much more time on the ball than he actually has.

He is very much of the Jared Payne mould, which is fitting because since he joined Ulster, the recently retired Ireland international has been working very closely with Addison.

The versatile 26-year old is exactly the kind of player Joe Schmidt craves, and while his first start wasn't flawless, the head coach was impressed with Addison's performance and the manner in which he slotted so seamlessly in alongside Bundee Aki.

A couple of touches early on settled any nerves and from there he grew into the game and enjoyed some slick moments with ball in hand.

As for Addison's family, who were watching back home, he was straight on the phone to his mother, who hails from Enniskillen.

"I was pretty much just in tears to my mum just there," he said in the immediate aftermath on Saturday.

"They sadly couldn't come over with it being a spur of the moment selection. I'm lucky I had my girlfriend here, which was great, but I have been on the phone to the parents and the family and I was full of emotion.

"That surprise selection luckily kind of took out that emotion and let me concentrate on the task. Certainly, after the game, it filled me with absolute pride."

Competition: has two pairs of tickets to the sold out Ireland vs New Zealand game at the Aviva this Saturday. Enter here.

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