Thursday 18 October 2018

Neil Francis: James Ryan could be the next Nathan Hines - but Adam Byrne should be on the Leinster A team

James Ryan (left) and Adam Byrne (right).
James Ryan (left) and Adam Byrne (right). Newsdesk Newsdesk

Leinster secured a bonus point win in their first Champions Cup game against Montpellier last weekend, but Neil Francis thinks they will need to be much improved to triumph in Glasgow this Saturday.

Leinster travel to Scotstoun to take on the PRO 14 pacesetters in Round Two, with the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent columnist calling it the 'tie of the weekend'.

Francis wasn't overly impressed with Leinster at the RDS last Saturday despite their bonus point win over the French giants, and thinks that wing Adam Byrne might pay the price for a suspect defensive performance.

Speaking on The Left Wing,'s rugby podcast with Will Slattery and Luke Fitzgerald, Francis explained why he thinks Byrne would be better served learning his trade on the A team.

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"I can't see why they are continuing to pick Adam Byrne," Francis said.

"He is only a young fella and he does have talent, but he missed six tackles and he did the same against Munster and defensively, learning how to tackle and who to tackle, when to tackle and having trust in the guys inside and outside you, I don't think he has a clue at this moment in time.

"He needs to be in a situation where he would learn on the A team because this is too important, this is Champions Cup."

One young player who excelled for Leinster last weekend was second row James Ryan, in what was the biggest test of his burgeoning professional career.

Despite stiff competition at lock from internationals Devin Toner and Scott Fardy, Francis - a former second row himself - thinks that it is time for Ryan to be given a bigger role in the team.

"I think Fardy is available for selection but I would just start picking him," Francis said.

"He had over ten tackles and more importantly, he didn't miss any. When you are only a kid, and that is what he is, just some of his interventions and athleticism, he got on the ball three of four times there and he didn't look like a child. They were very good carries."

The 21-year-old made his international debut against USA last summer, and Francis expects him to be a regular fixture in Joe Schmidt's squad in the near future.

"I've watched him over the years, he is very intelligent and has great hands. He can become something like a Nathan Hines, a really intelligent player who offloads at the right time. He should be playing for Ireland, he should be in the squad.

"This guy is coming from a way back and I think James Ryan will certainly be in Japan in 2019 without a shadow of a doubt and he has to be lucky, stay uninjured and keep playing the way he is playing and he will be a superstar."

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Subscribe to The Left Wing,'s Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud

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