Tuesday 18 December 2018

Ryan pledges to tackle smarter after suffering concussion in contact

James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

James Ryan remains unbeaten in Leinster blue. James Ryan also remains unbeaten in Munster red.

A trivia question in years to come as we pursue the remarkable career of a man who, perhaps, may one day captain his country and, who knows, the Lions too.

The multi-medalled second-row is keen to tell whoever asks that he didn't get a cap - "No! It was a Munster development team but no cap!" - so Leinter diehards can rest easy; Munster devotees, awkwardly, perhaps less so.

Provincial rivalry was set aside on that May day last year when the young Munster side tackled an Irish selection in Cork.

"Four proud provinces", tweeted the home side in deference to the national cause, as Joe Schmidt sought to test the fitness of a man he desperately wanted to play for Ireland.

"Look, it was funny at the time but I would have played for anyone to get on that plane!" Ryan recalled last week.

"When I knew that this was a plan that they had I had no problem. Get me down there, see how we go."

'We' went quite well, thanks very much. Munster carried the day but Ryan's influence would be long-lasting. After an unbeaten tour of Japan and the USA, he continued to win plaudits at home and abroad, enjoying a quite remarkable debut season, compiling Grand Slam, PRO14 and European honours, winning 24 games of 24 before the first Test loss in the summer series win against Australia.

Now it all begins again, with the first high-profile challenge of the rugby season against, ironically, Munster, whose acquiescence allowed him to take those fledgling steps to stardom on the summer tour just over a year ago.

He does so with that recent summer stutter, the opening Test loss to Australia, serving almost as a sense of relief.

No longer is he the man who cannot lose.

"Yeah, it was a bit," he says this week, asked if the blip removed a monkey from his broad back.

"It's probably the one silver lining so that all that malarkey would stop. That was the only thing really. It's nice to have that thing behind me."

One of the intriguing sub-plots to tomorrow's clash will be the burgeoning second-row options which continue to emerge; Tadhg Beirne, recently repatriated, and Jean Kleyn, an impending recruit, will be in the red corner.

Ryan's Irish status should remain unaffected but he will be keen to maintain his lofty eminence this term.

Beirne's flexibility allows him to challenge throughout the back five and Ryan has been impressed with the Kildare man's initial influence with Munster.

"I know him pretty well now, just from national camp and we toured Australia together. He's a quality operator and a good guy.

"Munster have been strengthened with him. Whether they play him in the second-row or back-row this weekend we'll wait and see. Obviously he's so good over the ball."

Ryan returns after being concussed against Edinburgh when he messed up a tackle on Ben Toolis, another humble reminder of fallibility.

"My tackle technique wasn't great. It just felt like that I could get up from it and I was a bit disorientated getting back into the line. I was taken off, so it was grand.

"I went through the standard return-to-play protocol and have been in full training since Monday.

"It's up to me to be a bit smarter where I'm putting my head.

"I'm feeling good this week. Training has gone really well and we're just excited for this game to get going now."

Irish Independent

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