James Ryan claims awards double for superb season
James Ryan has always been one to let his play do the talking.
The greatest compliment that can be paid to the second row is that his game hasn’t suffered as much as Ireland’s this season.
Joe Schmidt had to cope with a dip from the dizzying height of dominating New Zealand in November to being dominated by England and Wales in the Six Nations.
It has left the World Cup build-up looking more tenuous and uncertain than was perceived at the turn of the year.
All the while, the 22-year-old shook off the cloud of the ‘Second Season Syndrome’ to turn in another tremendously productive period.
Ryan is a double-double machine in that he rarely finishes a game without double figures in carries and tackles.
And that is just the beginning of what the lock brings alongside scrummaging on the tight-head side, lineout leaping - he has already started his calling career - ruck rocking entries and all-round follow-me leadership.
Most recently, the do-it-all lock lost nothing in a losing battle against the likes of Will Skelton, George Kruis and Maro Itoje in the Champions Cup final.
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It came as no surprise to see Ryan double-up as the Players’ Player and the Young Player of the Year last night in what is a special personal achievement.
“It’s always nice to win awards, but tonight has been particularly special, in that I am being recognised by my team-mates and opponents,” said Ryan, at the annual Rugby Players of Ireland Awards ceremony in Ballsbridge.
“I have many great memories of the season,” he said.
“There have also been plenty of learnings that I will take with me into the future.
“A special word of thanks to my family, who continue to guide me through what has been a fairly hectic rugby career to date.”
He won’t have too much time to take it in as Munster travel to Leinster for the PRO14 League semi-final on Saturday afternoon (KO 2.30, Eir Sport 1).
Jacob Stockdale is already noted as a man of miracle moments.
It happens too often to be simply dismissed as coming down to the bounce of an oddly shaped ball.
However, the sight of Stockdale’s match-winning try for Ireland against the All- Blacks was a rolling back of the months to a time more glorious.
The good and great of the Irish game gathered to pause and consider the season that has been.
The video rolled of the Ulsterman’s chip and chase that choked the life out of New Zealand at the Aviva.
It was nothing short of a racing certainty to be voted Try of the Year given the significance of the occasion, ahead of Keith Earls’ effort against France and Jordan Larmour’s finish against Italy last Autumn.
As regards the PRO14 semi-finals, Ulster coach Dan McFarland has Stockdale listed as “hopeful” to make it to the starting line against Glasgow at Scotstoun tomorrow night (KO 7.45, Eir Sport 1).
“We’ll see as the week goes on, but he’s reintegrating. We won’t really know until we select the team,” said the coach.
For the record, Stockdale hasn’t played since straining his hamstring against Edinburgh last month.
IRISH RUGBY PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR: James Ryan
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: James Ryan
SUPPORTERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jack Carty
TRY OF THE YEAR: Jacob Stockdale, Ireland v New Zealand
WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ciara Griffin
RUGBY PLAYERS HALL OF FAME: Conor O’Shea