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Rhys Ruddock reluctant to dwell on lack of opportunities in Japan

Unfortunate Leinster flanker should be out to prove a point, writes Cian Tracey

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Rhys Ruddock. Photo: Sportsfile

Rhys Ruddock. Photo: Sportsfile

Rhys Ruddock. Photo: Sportsfile

Of all the many black marks against Ireland's World Cup campaign, the one that sticks in the craw the most is the failure to select players based on form.

And this isn't one of those things which is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight. There were widespread calls throughout the latter stages in Japan for certain players to be given a chance which they had earned on the back of a string of impressive performances.

Few players embodied that frustration more than Rhys Ruddock (below right), who had to sit back and watch his chance pass him by.

The one caveat to all of this is that we are not privy to how players are training behind the scenes, yet Ruddock is a notoriously hard-worker and if his displays on the pitch were anything to go by, he couldn't have been stinking up the joint that badly.

Ireland were up against it regardless of who Joe Schmidt selected for that quarter-final defeat to New Zealand, and while it might not have made a difference to the end result, it's difficult to shake the feeling that they never gave themselves the best possible chance.

From Ruddock's point of view, the fact that Peter O'Mahony wasn't exactly in the form of his life must have made Schmidt's decision even tougher to stomach.

Too much stock was placed on players who had credit in the bank rather than taking a leaf out of the All Blacks' book and selecting players on form ahead of what others had done in the past.

Jordan Larmour and Andrew Porter would also have felt that they merited more starts and it is interesting to note that despite two more senior internationals being available for selection this weekend, Leinster are understood to be going with the younger pair, who have been excellent lately.

Ruddock came into the World Cup on the back of an outstanding display in Leinster's PRO14 final win, but he had to make do with one start in the turkey shoot against Russia, during which he scored a try.

Given the 29-year old's calm demeanour, he was never going to throw the toys out of the pram in Japan, and he's not about to do it now either.

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Deep down though, one wonders how he really feels about the whole thing.

"Obviously I'm going to be disappointed not to be involved a bit more," Ruddock admitted this week. "But anyone who is competitive and wants to challenge themselves in big games would feel the same way.

Competition

"Look, there's so much competition in here and there's such a condensed block of huge games, I couldn't afford to mull on it. I had my week of feeling sorry for myself and mulling things over."

Ruddock did speak with Schmidt and sought reasons for his regular omission from the first-choice starting XV. While he understandably wasn't willing to divulge the nature of those private conversions, it is clear that he was annoyed.

"It's a tricky balance," he admits.

"Once you're part of a team, the games come thick and fast and it's such a huge thing to be a part of.

"So you don't want to be sapping energy or anything. It's part of being a professional. You find your reason, you move on and you've got to commit to preparing the team as best you can."

Motivation, then, will not be in short supply when Ruddock is likely to start at blindside in Leinster's back-row against Benetton on Saturday.

A hugely respected figure within the squad, there is an even greater emphasis on Ruddock this season, now that Sean O'Brien has left the club.

His abrasiveness will be crucial if Leinster are to be successful and with a clean slate in terms of the international picture, he is prepared to put his own personal World Cup disappointment behind him.

"My take on it would be, if you are playing well enough, in good enough form, over time you will get selected. It may take a while.

"If you put enough games together, where you show you deserve to play, in general, you will get your opportunity.

"It is being patient, backing your ability and backing your skill-set as well.

"I am happy with my form, but it's a funny one because it's basically the start of the season now and I haven't done anything yet."

Stuart Lancaster spoke earlier this week about the need for Leinster to not disregard what their players have done this season while the front-liners were at the World Cup in Japan. It seems as though he will stay true to his word ahead of tomorrow's team announcement.

As a new era for Irish rugby beckons, the hope is that Andy Farrell will follow suit and that the likes of Ruddock are not left wondering what more they have to do to earn their chance on the international stage.

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