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Munster's John Ryan - Managing my weight made tricky by unusual ailment

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It's been a tough few years for Munster prop John Ryan as he battles with Ulcerative Colitis

It's been a tough few years for Munster prop John Ryan as he battles with Ulcerative Colitis

SPORTSFILE

Munster John Ryan

Munster John Ryan

SPORTSFILE

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It's been a tough few years for Munster prop John Ryan as he battles with Ulcerative Colitis

For rugby players, pre-season training is seen as a time to reach peak fitness, prepare for a gruelling nine months of action, pump the weights, and try to ingest your about half your weight in food daily in a quest to increase muscle and mass. What do you do, though, if the opposite happens?

It's been a tough few years for Munster prop John Ryan as he battles with Ulcerative Colitis. Kilos are currency in the front-row, but his ailment, which effects the colon, can cause him to drop weight at an alarming rate. It's a tricky battle for him to balance his search for fitness with keeping the hard-earned kilos on, but making progress as a player certainly helps.

This time last year Ryan - who can operate on both sides of the scrum - would have bitten your hand off if you offered him the 16 Munster caps he earned last season. But he's not satisfied with a repeat this year - he wants to hit the 20 mark.

And after starting a new diet last week, which he hopes will help him control the illness, Ryan believes he now has the tools to progress.

"I'm after losing a lot of weight lately because of the condition so I got it checked out with the IRFU dietician this week. So she advised me to go gluten-free for a while. I'm off all sorts now," he says.

"Pasta has to be gluten-free from now on. I am allowed eat rice and potatoes. I am not allowed eat a lot of veg and a lot of fruit, they have to be cut right down. It's all part of the Fodmap diet.

"It was fairly annoying, I would go down two or three kilos in a hurry, in two or three weeks or even a week. And then it's a struggle to get it back up. You get better and then you have to try to feed yourself, feed yourself. My weight wouldn't shoot up at all but you have to mind it, when you are feeling better you have to eat healthily. You can't be playing catch-up when you are healthy.

"Last year wasn't too bad, I was looking at it and my weight was 116kg constantly because I was able to manage it. The knock-on effect then was that I was fitter, my muscle mass was coming up all the time. I was fitter - strength and conditioning helped a lot - and I got a good few caps too."

As well as fighting his condition, Ryan (26) has had to manage a dual role in the Munster front-row.

Assigned

This season he has featured in all five of Munster's games, and while Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin worked their way back into the team he was mainly assigned the loose duties.

While the ability to perform both positions to a high standard is an extra string to his bow, it does means he has to spread his time in training across the two positions.

The chance to operate in his favoured tighthead role has come around in the last few weeks and he certainly hopes to be in a position to focus on that in the coming months.

"I end up going forward and back in training as well so you have to have your technique down on both sides," he explains.

"You can't be playing guessing games in the first scrum like I did in the first game on the loose side. I got beaten badly in one of the scrums but then I got into the groove.

"That will come, though - it came pretty naturally to me last season so I am sure it will come again this year.

"Last year was great, but I actually finished out the year disappointed. I was delighted to be playing, I played a lot and there was obviously a lot of trust in me. But then with the two semi-finals I didn't get a look in so that finished on a low point for me.

"I had my targets. The year before I got about seven appearances and I thought that if I could double my appearances I would be happy. So then to get eight starts and eight subs was great. To be named in both semi-finals was better again, but I was a bit disappointed at not getting on."

Ryan's good form was acknowledged by a call-up to the Emerging Ireland tour to Romania, which he was "delighted with", while the province also handed him a new two-year deal.

He was thrilled to sign on with his home province for another couple of seasons, but he is not just satisfied to act as cover. He wants a starting shirt.

"I got the new deal around Christmas and I was happy to get it done early so you can concentrate on the rest of your season," he says.

"Sometimes it can come to the end of the season and you wouldn't be concentrating on your game. I am absolutely delighted to get it done early and I will try to tie down a place for myself. That is the main target now. Just put my number on my back and keep it there.

"I would probably like to be pushing the other lads. Typically the props would be getting 20 appearances, so I would like to push for that now.

"Before last year I only had one start and coming into this year I have nine starts so I have a bit more experience. I started the first game and I would be looking to start a few more.

"I did manage to play in my first Heineken Cup game, I got on against Toulouse last year - I actually came on at loosehead and at tighthead as well that day. But that was a great day and that was one of the better days for me last year.

"It was a huge win and great to get good game time too. Hopefully there'll be a few more like it this year."

Irish Independent