Friday 18 October 2019

'There is always a slight aggression and there is a bit of bite there' - Ryan gives insight into 'intense' Irish training

John Ryan during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland
John Ryan during Ireland rugby squad training at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland
John Ryan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Joey Carbery was understandably grabbing the headlines emanating out of Brisbane's Hilton Hotel yesterday as Joe Schmidt's out-half call made waves across the rugby world, but there are other interesting elements to the coach's selection.

The decision to rest Tadhg Furlong hasn't caused as much of a stir, but in picking John Ryan ahead of Andrew Porter for the opening Test, the coach has shown faith in a player who might have lost confidence during a difficult season.

At Munster, Ryan has found himself largely playing second-fiddle to Stephen Archer, while for Ireland he fell behind the dynamic figure of Porter in the pecking order as the Six Nations went on.

Yet, he remained involved in squads and was brought to Twickenham as a travelling reserve.

When the final whistle went, he was as happy as any of the starting players as he felt he had contributed fully to the preparations and played his part in the opening two games.

It was a squad effort after all.

"I definitely felt a part of it," he recalled.

"How many players have won a Grand Slam in the country? To be part of two pretty important games... and everyone wants to be on the pitch in Twickenham and wants to be involved. Obviously I was over there but in the capacity of being a reserve, but I felt just as much a part of it.

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"I was lucky enough. A lot of the boys who were selected, who actually played, weren't over there in Twickenham, guys like Chris Farrell... it was great to be there.

"Everyone felt a part of it, it was a big effort from the whole squad and we weren't kicking the crap out of each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays just to be the bibs. We felt a real part of it."

Although previous Ireland teams may have had a divide between those picked for the weekend and the rest, Ryan says Schmidt's set-up is an inclusive one.

"I know it is such a minor role, and you are not going to get any pats on the back from your coach or your team-mates," he said.

"Even today's training shouldn't have been at the intensity it was, but knowing that it is Australia ahead of us there was a serious intensity to it.

"There is always a slight aggression and it is down to the selection, and there is a bit of bite there, because there are some lads that want to be in. We are working in an era now where it is not the same XV every week.

"There are changes and serious competition around the place and in my personal experience, there are three hoping to get into this squad and we are all looking to get in, and that one fella who is left out in the cold gets it really tough.

"So next week, it could be me, or two weeks it could be me, it is all about competition."

Although he fell out of favour with Munster and Ireland, Ryan never lost faith in his ability to get back to this stage.

"I have started three games, against Japan, USA and Fiji. I tore my calf and that was a disaster. I haven't had big games, even at club level this year, so it is great to have a vote of confidence from the coaches," he said.


"I knew I had the same ability because I was still doing the work, the same work in the scrum.

"When he (Archer) was ahead of me, it was because they preferred him and that was it. I got on with it.

"There were times obviously when I was disappointed not to be starting in the European games but then I got a big confidence boost from being selected for Ireland in November and to go back - and be an impact sub - like I was coming on after 45 or 50 minutes, it wasn't as if I was just getting 10 minutes each match.

"I still had a big part to play in our games and then got another lift to play in the Six Nations."

He'll have a big part to play on this tour, given his starting role tomorrow as Ireland look to keep their winning run going.

And Ryan says the increased competition is driving the performance levels.

"It would be huge, the team they have named is pretty impressive, so to beat a team like Australia, in Australia, an outstanding team, is a big ask, but that is the goal," he said.

"The young lads coming through - or even late bloomers like myself - I have a pretty big appetite for winning games.

"Then you have the likes of James Ryan, Andrew Porter, those lads, they are all trying to make a name for themselves.

"There is such talent in Ireland, whereby if you don't do a job, the next fella will.

"So you just have to have your head on, on the day, because there is that fella behind you who has a target on your back, and who will leapfrog you.

"That is the main driver."

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