Sunday 20 October 2019

'Delighted to have the opportunity to be part of a World Cup' - Ruddock brothers in arms on the trip of a lifetime

10 years after they played together at the U-20 World Cup in Japan, Mike Ruddock’s boys are now reunited and working together for Ireland

Rhys Ruddock (left) is pictured with his brother Ciarán, Ireland assistant strength and conditioning coach, at the Hotel New Otani Makuhari in Chiba, Japan yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Rhys Ruddock (left) is pictured with his brother Ciarán, Ireland assistant strength and conditioning coach, at the Hotel New Otani Makuhari in Chiba, Japan yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

There was a time when Mike Ruddock's boys dreamed of playing for Ireland together, but life took them on different courses.

A decade ago, they lined out at the U-20 Rugby World Cup in Japan and were both part of the Leinster Academy in their early days.

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Rhys, now 28, played for Ireland when still a teenager and is back in the Land of the Rising Sun as part of Joe Schmidt's ambitious squad.

His older brother Ciarán (30) went on to have a successful club career with St Mary's and represented the Ireland Club XV and the Barbarians. Professional rugby didn't work out, but he channelled his energy into building a business with the FFS gym he co-owns.

That successful venture led indirectly to him joining his brother on stage in Chiba yesterday morning.

You could say they're together at last, but they've been living together for the last couple of years so it wouldn't really be accurate.

What is clear from their dynamic is that the Ruddock boys are enjoying being brothers in arms once again.

"It's been a brilliant experience," Ciarán said of linking up as a strength and conditioning coach with the team.

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"Obviously I got the opportunity in November and since then I've loved it. It's been awesome working with Jason (Cowman).

"You've got a guy there with so much experience and knowledge. It's been one of the best educational things I have done as a coach, to be able to work with and learn from him.

"And also to be involved in this environment with so many good coaches, to work with the calibre of athletes I get to work with every day in here and even just the quality of people.

"Everyone in this environment is brilliant. It's really a positive and energised environment.

"Since November it's been absolutely brilliant and to have the opportunity to come over here, to Japan, and be part of a World Cup, I'm absolutely delighted with it and loving every minute of it."

Dad Mike's club commitments with Lansdowne mean it's not clear if he'll make it out to Japan, but his influence over his sons is clear.

"One of our first memories was when we were growing up, maybe six or seven, starting to get into rugby, I remember a year or two in, soccer came up, an opportunity to play soccer, so whether to play soccer or play rugby," Ciarán recalled.

"You'd think because of who he was that he'd steer you towards the rugby but he was: 'lads, if you want to play soccer, let's go'.

Advice

"He brought us down and said, 'a bit of advice, whatever sport you're going to play, just make sure you do it the best you can'.

"That was his guidance on the rugby and when I was trying to become a professional rugby player, he'd watch the games and he'd only give me advice if I wanted it. He'd always come forward with, 'do you want a bit of guidance on this?' or, 'do you want to know my thoughts?'.

"I'd take them and they'd be unbelievable insights and you'd take them and you'd use them.

"But he was always unbelievably good for me in my playing career at kind of not getting too hands-on but just being supportive as a dad and then at the same time, at the end of it, he'd give you the opportunity to get some coaching and it always hugely helped me.

"It was always good guidance, and even in terms of a career path, every time there was a juncture in the rugby road in terms of the career path, whether it be as a player or a coach, I'd go to him for input and the input he'd give me would always end up being the right input. I'd tend to go with that decision and it always worked out pretty well."

Rhys' professional ambitions have been realised and he echoes his brother's sentiments about his father's input.

"He never really put any pressure on me, which was amazing," he said.

"My friends would be like, 'oh, your dad must make you do loads of weights' when we were young and 'he must make you train really hard' and I was like, 'no, he just wants us to be really happy and enjoy it'.

"But he has definitely given us a huge amount of insight and he still does exactly the same for me. He'd text or ring me and say, 'I have some things on the game at the weekend, let me know if you want to hear them'.

"Sometimes I might not be in the mood and I'm just kind of mulling things over myself and I don't want to go there but then other times, I'll text or ring him back and be like, 'yeah, let's sit down and do it' and he'll go through it with me."

When the professional door closed on Ciarán, another opened and he hasn't looked back.

"It was obviously difficult but towards the end, I was not playing or enjoying my rugby like I had before so it was kind of at that point myself and my friend Rory (McInerny) set up the gym and then another guy Mike (South).

"From there, the three of us started to build it and then I was just playing rugby with Mary's.

"That transition, for the first little bit of it was tough but then after that you just start having new goals, set yourself new targets and chase new things and then it's great now to be back in the environment where now I'm coaching and I'm part of this where it's been fantastic and, to be honest, it probably suits me better because I'm probably a better coach than I am a rugby player.

"I still have got the itch to go back and play at some stage as well but to be a part of this environment and part of a team again is what I've always enjoyed."

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