Thursday 18 July 2019

Racing in love with Ryan's positive attitude - Masoe

Ryan is the kind of player who makes those around him look good. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ryan is the kind of player who makes those around him look good. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Long after the full-time whistle had sounded on Sunday and Munster had made the long walk back to the dressing-rooms at the charmingly olde-world Stade Chaban-Delmas, Donnacha Ryan made his way over to the lingering red army to a rapturous reception.

Having made the move from home last summer and accepted a place among Racing 92's galacticos, the Tipperary native will fly the Munster flag alone in Bilbao having contributed massively to their European semi-final exit.

There are bigger names and more impressive specimens in the Parisians' squad, but Ryan is the kind of player who makes those around him look good and his gritty determination, phenomenal work-rate and lineout knowledge is key to their march to a second final in three years.

For the 34-year-old who was part of so many heartbreaks with his home province, it is a return to a first showpiece since 2008 when he sat alongside Keith Earls as an unused sub for 80 minutes.

Fitness permitting, he'll go the distance for Racing at the San Mamés stadium on May 12 and of all of the faces in the French side's line-up his will be one that worries Leo Cullen and Co as much as any other.

As a player, former All Black Chris Masoe was one of the toughest opponents in the game and when he raves about Ryan's contribution it's worth listening to.

A triple winner of this tournament with Toulon, he knows what it takes to get over the line and believes the Irish second-row's contribution is key.

"You guys know him pretty well, he has a lot of experience. He knows the competition really well," he said. "Munster has always dominated the Champions Cup and the Heineken Cup before it, but to have a guy like him in the team is an amazing lift for the boys.

"The boys love him. It's something you can't teach someone but he's great for the team.

"It's his attitude, he's a positive guy. He's bringing the energy. The most important thing for me is his mindset because sometimes the French way of doing things... but to have that balance and for him to bring that is pretty good for the team.

"It rubs off on other players. We do things pretty similar in New Zealand to Ireland, leave it to the players to put a bit of input into it because at the end of the day they're the ones on the field and we just give them a bit of direction."

After a strong defensive effort to maintain the lead they built in a stunning opening 25 minutes in Bordeaux, Masoe is expecting a different challenge from Leinster who tore Scarlets apart on Saturday.

"We've got to approach it differently again, defensively," he said. "You can see they've been playing well. I've played against that team and it's all about their momentum and we're going to have to work hard to stop their momentum and make sure it goes in our favour.

"I'm sure they'll be everyone's pick as favourite. It's good to be underdog but we've got to a lot of analysis in the next three weeks and we've got Top 14, back down here again next week but it's a good opportunity for us.

"The Top 14 is something that is special for the French, that is their priority - it's almost similar to winning a Six Nations.

"We'll take it one game at a time, thankfully enough we've got a good squad to rotate and hopefully we'll come out on top."

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