Quiet man Ryan admits Leinster set-piece must improve for showdown with Wasps
James Ryan has always been a man of few words, even when he was captaining the Ireland U-20s and St Michael's College.
Coming into the Leinster and Ireland set-ups with so many other key leaders has meant that the 22-year-old has been able to sit back and soak up the information, yet that is beginning to change.
In terms of environments in which to learn, Ryan could not be better placed. Devin Toner and Scott Fardy were two of the best players in Europe last season and that's before we mention Leo Cullen, who has had a big influence on Ryan as well.
Striking the right balance between leading by actions and words is key and Ryan admits that he is becoming more comfortable in the ultra-competitive environment.
"I'd be more comfortable speaking now than I would have been this time last year I think," he says.
"There is definitely discussion every week. Some of the more experienced guys like Scott Fardy and Devin Toner would do some of that back and forth with Leo.
"So there is that bit of discussion with some of the older lads.
"Even the younger lads aren't afraid to speak if we see an area that needs to be highlighted.
"But having that experience there, sometimes they would pick up on things easier and quicker than we (younger players) would.
"I just talk when I feel something needs to be said. I wouldn't be going out of my way to speak in meetings or anything like that."
For all that Leinster achieved last season, the 2015/'16 European campaign has been mentioned a couple of times this week as a barometer of how far the club have come in the time since.
A 33-6 humbling to Wasps at the RDS in their Champions Cup opener set the tone for a bitterly disappointing pool stage, which culminated in Leinster finishing bottom.
It would, however, prove to be seminal moment for the province, and a young Ryan was there that day, watching on from the stand.
"I would have been looking at it and I wouldn't have been very happy, because I was always a big Leinster fan," Ryan recalls.
"It definitely wasn't where Leinster had been for a number of years. Not a nice result in the RDS, doesn't happen very often, so I think we were way off the mark at that stage.
"You were probably concerned just about the squads they (English clubs) were building, some of the teams, just because of the money they have, but the model Leinster have sooner or later comes through.
"In terms of guys - look at the number of guys who have grown up with Leinster, wanting to play for Leinster, you can't really buy that."
The culture that Ryan is now part of is a world away from what Johnny Sexton encountered on his return from Paris and as Leinster get set to begin another European journey against Wasps on Friday, it's difficult to see them making the same mistakes twice.
"I've only experienced last year, so what I noticed was there was no hierarchy," Ryan explains.
"Guys don't just spend time with each other when they come in here from 8 o'clock till 3 or 4, whatever, people make efforts to catch up for coffees, or go for lunch, off-field kinda stuff. There's that sense of brotherhood I suppose, those relationships are being built."
Despite the win over Munster, there were a few harsh words spoken at Monday morning's review.
Munster got plenty of joy out of their maul, which will have disappointed Cullen, while they also had a few issues at scrum time.
"We'd some tough learnings," Ryan adds.
"Set-piece is an area we pride ourselves on. We definitely could have been better on the weekend in terms of the maul defence.
"Sometimes we were watching and waiting a bit. And if you have any moment of hesitancy against a team like Munster, they are going to run over you. So it's having that urgency and commitment to smash in 100pc. We hold each other accountable.
"It's not all doom and gloom. We still got a good result. We're in a good place.
"It's kinda obvious in some of the clips what we could have done better. So I'm sure there'll be a bit of a spike this week in terms of the set-piece stuff."
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