Monday 19 March 2018

'I am flying but I just want to get back playing now'

The Big Interview: John Ryan

New dad John Ryan aims for more responsibility on the field as well as off it. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
New dad John Ryan aims for more responsibility on the field as well as off it. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

John Ryan had not made his international debut until mid-November 2016, when he lined out opposite Canada, but less than 12 months down the line the Munster tighthead has already registered nine caps for his country.

It has been a stunning rise for the Corkonian who is now a mainstay in the Munster No 3 jersey, although he does have the added competition of Ciarán Parker now to contend with, alongside Stephen Archer.

It has been a feature of Munster this year and last, where they looked to bulk up their numbers and gradually they have put together a fearsome-looking squad with a massive amount of depth.

Ryan has played 98 times for Munster and scored two tries, his second came in a man of the match Champions Cup display against Toulouse last season, and he knows it's only going to get tougher to build up the caps now.

"We were very thin at tighthead last year. It's good to have more competition in training. It will help there because before if someone was carrying knock in training we would have to use a scrummaging machine. Having an extra person is there to create competition and good healthy training sessions," said Ryan.

"We are fattening up our depth really. Unfortunately, Gerbrandt Grobler hurt his ankle but we picked up an extra player in each position. It's going well but hopefully that continues and we can stay that way."

Munster Rugby have been through an array of emotions in the past year, and the players have emerged together stronger than ever as they look to improve upon a breakthrough campaign for the province.

The two-time European champions had been struggling for a number of years, having not secured silverware at senior level since they claimed PRO12 honours in 2011, and the death of former great and coach Anthony Foley was a massive setback for the province.

But the players and management pulled together and the bonus-point Champions Cup victory over Glasgow that followed painted the picture for what their season would entail.

It all resulted in a Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens and a Guinness PRO12 final loss against Scarlets, and although both reversals were sizeable, the season could ultimately be regarded as a success.

For Ryan, he has already seen the signs of improvement this pre-season, and if Munster's bonus point win over Treviso is anything to go by, their fans will be in for eventful campaign.

"The Treviso game was an unbelievable game, and all of the lads played really well. We played a more expansive style of rugby and the set-piece was solid enough and our backs were very good. Our back-three especially," says Ryan.


"This season we want some bit of progression from last year. Our game-plan is normally very direct but our offloading is something that we have been working on.

"I think there were definitely signs of things coming together against Treviso and hopefully we can build on that in the weeks and months to come."

But for Ryan himself, although he insists there are areas he can improve on in his game, the statistics say that last season was near perfect from him.

He added 17 appearances in the league, along with eight in Europe, and the 29-year-old is now central to Joe Schmidt's plan where he will do battle with British & Irish Lions revelation Tadhg Furlong for the jersey.

If there was one regret from 2016-'17, Ryan says it was his inability to take it all in, and really appreciate what he achieved at the time. 

"I only had a chance to reflect on the season when I got home from Japan. When I was in the middle of it I was thinking, 'Don't think about because something was going to go wrong'," he says.

"I would never consider myself to be a superstitious kind of guy but I wanted to plough on. I was just trying to get on with it. But looking back now it was great to have that season. 

"My only regret is that I didn't enjoy it enough. I was too serious. I needed to loosen up and maybe I was a bit tired towards the end of the season. I had a lot of minutes under my belt but that gives me something to build on too.

"Hopefully I can continue the form with Munster and on the international side of things I will hope to do better too."

Ryan will be hoping for another whirlwind season, and after becoming a dad for the first time recently, he has a lot more responsibility off the field.

Back on it, he wants to make an impression as soon as possible with the November internationals approaching. But Munster remains at the forefront of his plans as he looks to stave of the competition and follow in the footsteps of some great Munster tightheads.

"I am flying and I just want to get back playing rugby now and getting minutes under my belt once again," says Ryan.

"I want to come back in this weekend, get a good run of games, and then cement myself in that No 3 jersey for Munster because there is even more competition this season, and I know I need to be better.

"I need to play ball now, with just five weeks before the Irish camp, and then when that comes I need to get selected for the series.

"That's the plan anyway, play well for Munster, keep the No 3 on my back and kick on in November with Ireland and who knows what happens after that?"

Irish Independent

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