Saturday 17 August 2019

I'd be lying if I said Japan wasn't on my mind - Ryan

Standing tall: James Ryan with his Guinness Rugby Writers award
Standing tall: James Ryan with his Guinness Rugby Writers award

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

The rise of James Ryan has been as well-documented as it has been swift, but it is worth remembering that the second-row last visited Japan having made his Ireland international debut before ever playing for Leinster.

That was in June 2017 and just over two years on, the 23-year-old phenomenon will go to a World Cup as Ireland's leading player.

Last night, he was back on stage adding the Guinness Rugby Writers Player of the Year award to the Players' Player of the Year gong he collected in May.

A Grand Slam, a Champions Cup, a win over the All Blacks and two PRO14 titles have been the highlights of the 24 months that followed his introduction to senior rugby and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

Not that he's one to start making bold pronouncements about his ambitions for the weeks ahead.


Ultra-professional and even-handed in his public dealings, this is a serious young man who repeatedly states his ambition to put in "accurate and committed performances" between now and Ireland's big kick-off in Yokohama on September 22 where he will be, injury permitting, one of Joe Schmidt's go-to men.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't at the back of my mind," he said of that tournament opener against Scotland.

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"Of course it is, it's a massive game but if you think of it, four Test matches coming up, that's a lot of rugby to be played.

"Guys are going to be injured, unfortunately, that's the nature of the game and the only thing you can be thinking about if you want to get on the plane is your performance in the warm-up games.

"So while it's at the back of my mind, we're not really looking too far ahead this week in terms of what's coming up."

It all begins on Saturday at 2pm against Italy and even the kick-off time is part of Joe Schmidt's meticulous preparation as he looks to ensure the hottest conditions possible for his players.

The weather might not play ball, but on Wednesday the squad will make their way to Portugal for a warm-weather camp they hope will prepare them for the heat in Japan.

Even in their Irish training sessions, the players have been taking extra measures in an attempt to break a sweat.

"We're going to Portugal next Wednesday and I think it will be quite hot," Ryan said.

"In terms of duress, we've been doing a lot of running fitness because obviously you need to be running fit.

"We've been wearing plastic bags for a number of training sessions to kind of lose the body fat and the days we were doing that were actually kind of hot as well so the conditions were unpleasant."

Ryan's experience from that tour to Japan should be of benefit to him and he's excited by what can be achieved there.

"It's a different time of the year so the weather could be slightly different but yeah, I think it will stand to us when we get there,' he added.

"Certainly having that experience there, with the travel... We'll be travelling a lot on the bullet trains and we've done a bit of that too, so that should help.

"I loved it (in Japan). (It's a) mad country, it's certainly different to playing in Europe just in terms of the environment and everything so hopefully I'll be going back there for the World Cup.

"If you put in committed and accurate performances we'll have a squad that can compete with anybody.

"Playing on a world stage for your nation is where you want to be."

Irish Independent

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