Monday 11 December 2017

Ryan relishing French test after derby ‘baptism of fire’

David Kelly

David Kelly

A charge of naivety is something that will jar with Munster supporters as their team prepares to run the gauntlet of crack French outfit Racing Metro at a pulsating Stade de France on Saturday.

That it is a self-admission from one of the forward players Munster will look to, in an attempt to fill the gaping void left by Paul O'Connell, seems even more surprising.

Donnacha Ryan has a potential alibi, however, as he admits that experiencing his full seasonal debut against European champions Leinster in their Lansdowne Road fortress was a "baptism of fire" for the Irish international.

"I hadn't played a game other than a few minutes against Ospreys and it was about getting back into the system," he confesses.

"Things like looking into the ruck instead of looking out, small things like that. It didn't help the team. I made a lot of mistakes, small things like that.

"We looked at it in analysis and you have to be honest with yourself and bring it on as much as possible.

"I wasn't the only one so it ended up snowballing in some respects. I think we all learned an awful lot from last weekend. If we can take two or three things on from a personal level we will be a far better team.


"For me the pace of the game was ferocious and the time the ball was in play was an awful lot.

"But look, when you come back from pre-season you always like to play a 'tuner' before a big game like that. Of course I wasn't able to do that, so I'm just delighted to be back on the field and try and use that as a good foundation for next weekend irrespective."

Not that he would be critical of the IRFU's player management policy, one that leaves as many supporters scratching their heads in puzzlement as it does players scratching their behinds in idleness.

Injury accompanied Ryan's time on the sidelines which was an excuse, if not entirely a comfort: "This is my first year being in the player management scenario and I was injured so I can't make a fair comment on it. But from what I gather the players are very happy to do it -- it is a long season.

"The management of the players is a priority and from a player's point of view it is very good.

"I got a bad injury the first day back. I was a bit eager to train over my time off when I should have been resting. It was naive on my part and obviously I was still learning but, I was so happy to get back playing.

"I thought I was going to be another three months before I would get back playing so I'm very happy to have even got back on the field. So I'm just taking it one game at a time."

The perception of Munster as a cast of fledgling youths cast into the spotlight in the absence of so many legends of yore -- Hayes, Wallace, Quinlan et al -- diminishes somewhat when Ryan's case is assessed.

He may have emerged as an overnight sensation in recent times but he took a lifetime doing it; by the time Munster's qualification hopes in a fiendishly difficult Pool 1 are assessed more clearly in December, Ryan will have entered his 30th year.

He has been an Irish international for some four years now and has amassed more than a century of appearances in red; this is the time for him to stand up and fight, as they say round these parts.

His experience of the Stade de France will aid those within his team who have yet to sample its atmosphere; he came on there for Leo Cullen wearing green in 2010 and started the rearranged drawn game in spring this year.

"It is a fantastic stadium," he enthuses, recalling his visit last season. "81,000 people. Even to hear the national anthems was fantastic. The guys who haven't played there before are in for an unbelievable treat.

"It is going to be a very tough place to go to. Their pack is very, very big and they have excellent backs as well.

"Stade is pretty hostile as well. I think it adds to an atmosphere even if they are cheering against you. Some guys react to it. I kind of like that."

However, after three defeats on the road in the equally hostile arenas of Swansea, Belfast and Dublin, some may beg to differ as this newly-fashioned side continue to stutter in their development.

"We have fantastic confidence in each other and especially in the way we play," he insists. "This team is built on belief. It is definitely going to be a very tough game but you have to have some sort of belief in yourself you can get a result over there."

Irish Independent

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