Sunday 25 February 2018

Lancaster: Ryan ticks all the boxes - just like Itoje

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Last week, Stuart Lancaster got his first proper glimpse of James Ryan since he arrived at the province and the early impression from a coach who knows a thing or two about nurturing young talent is that the second-row has got everything needed to succeed at the top level.

Ryan has been out since November after undergoing surgery on his hamstring but he returned to Leinster training last week before Joe Schmidt intervened and sent him down to Munster to play with their development team.

The net result for Ryan was that he was included in the Ireland squad for next month's summer tour, without having played a single senior game for Leinster.

It is quite an achievement for last year's Ireland U-20 captain, and Lancaster, who worked with Maro Itoje before he burst onto the England scene, believes Ryan will follow a similar path.

"I coached Maro at U-17s when I was in that previous role (as RFU academy director)," Lancaster said.

"You can sometimes see these players come through who tick all three boxes. Athletically, they are clearly going to be in the ballpark to be an international player.

"Secondly, they've got the technical ability and, thirdly, they have the mentality. That's what Maro had as a young bloke coming through.

"Just from the outside, and listening to what people say about James, it seems to me he has all three components as well.

"You often get players who have two of the three. They might be an unbelievable athlete with great technical ability.

"But they don't have the mentality to deal with top-flight competition.

"Or, they might have the mentality and athletic ability, but not the technical know-how.

"We took Maro into the World Cup squad to give him that experience, knowing he would transition through into the senior team. I think James is in the same category from what I understand.


"From what I've seen, he looks like he's got all three parts of the jigsaw.

"The injury has given him the opportunity to put some weight on and physically develop because he's a big man anyway. He's even bigger now.

"He certainly seems to have the technical ability and he definitely has the drive as well."

Lancaster added that Ryan's desire to get back from his long-term injury caught his eye.

"He is very driven, very humble, wants to learn, wants to get better," he said.

"The over-riding impression was the inner drive. You could see it. He didn't have to say too much to realise that he's going to be a competitor."

Irish Independent

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