Thursday 5 December 2019

Munster wary of the threat posed by Ryan's inside knowledge

Munster lock Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Munster lock Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It is not a coincidence that Racing 92's lineout defence has become one of the best in Europe since Donnacha Ryan joined the Parisian club.

A diligent student of the set-piece, Ryan's doggedness has clearly rubbed off on his new team-mates, and even without Leone Nakarawa Racing have the ability to mix it with the best.

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When Munster played the French side in last year's Champions Cup semi-final, there was a real fear that Ryan's inside track on the Munster lineout would spook his home province.

His presence alone was enough to do so and as the Tipperary native gets set to play at Thomond Park for the first time since leaving in 2017, Munster will again be on red alert.

They have a new-look lock pairing in Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne and with the latter calling the lineout, he will be hoping to out-smart Ryan.

"I think the lads said that his work-ethic and his knowledge around lineout and all that kind of stuff is second to none, and he's definitely probably changed that for Racing and put his mark on it," Beirne says of Ryan.

"So, credit to him and I'm sure he'll still remember a lot about the Munster lineout, so it's going to be important to kind of manipulate it a little bit against them.

"I think their lineout defence is one of the most impressive I've seen in a long time. They seem to disrupt a lot of lineouts, not just in the Champions Cup but also in the Top 14, so that's definitely one of their strongest points and an area that we will have a massive focus on.

"Then they have individuals that can turn something out of nothing and that's something we have to stay alive for and be ready for and that's going to be a big challenge."

Having Stephen Larkham coming in and placing a huge emphasis on the skill level of every player will have been music to the ears of Beirne, who has plenty to offer in that regard.

"I think the game has changed in terms of the expectations coaches have on players in terms of their skill-set," the Kildare native insists.

Improving

"You have to be able to play and throw the ball around in every position now. So you know, anyone growing up playing the game, it's definitely something the coaches will be focusing on - their skill-set - and I think everyone in this Munster squad has those skills and are definitely improving on those skills every day.

"I suppose you are never going to be the finished article and will always be looking to improve, but you know you can never say when that is going to be. At the moment we are looking good and feeling good and if we can continue to improve then we will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in Europe and the PRO14."

Like his Ireland team-mates, Beirne has had to quickly park his World Cup disappointment, even if he believes he might never get another chance like that again.

At 27, time is on his side, as he looks to prove that the whole experience has made him a better player.

"Part of you will probably never get over it, you might not get another opportunity out there," Beirne adds.

"But you come into this environment and it just kind of lifts you because everyone is in such good form and the lads have been performing well and things are certainly on the rise here.

"You're in an international environment from June until almost November so you'd think that you'd improve and learn a bit as a player and I think I did.

"I don't think I played particularly poorly but I don't think I shone either, so I suppose it's hard... I definitely think I learned a lot over the whole experience."

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