Saturday 7 December 2019

Ryan sets his sights on leading Ireland U-20s

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Come Friday evening when Ireland kick off their U-20s Six Nations campaign, there is likely to be a renewed sense of belief about the players of the future generation but one is already standing out from the rest.

It's not just the fact that James Ryan is 6'8" and weighs 108kg but it's the rapid rate of progression that he has made since captaining St Michael's College in last season's Leinster Schools Senior Cup.

The towering second-row has already captained Ireland at U-18 level as well as skippering the Leinster U-18s, U-19s and U-20s, so it seemed only natural that Nigel Carolan would hand Ryan the captaincy for the Six Nations.

The Six Nations will represent a significant step up from anything that he has faced in his fledging career but given the fact that Carolan has already highlighted the hefty pack at his disposal, Ryan is expected to thrive in the tournament.

"It's going pretty well, which is great," he said modestly.

"The Six Nations is another step up so it's exciting for myself and the group. I think maybe the pack is probably bigger than other years, guys like Andrew Porter, Conan O'Donnell - they're big fellas and will hopefully give us an edge in the scrum.

"Obviously we've got a lot of talented backs as well who have a lot of X-factor too, guys like Jack Power, Jacob Stockdale, those kind of guys. It seems like a decent mix."

Ryan is the son of former Leinster back-row Mark. Using his father as a sounding board has helped fast-track his progress and he feels as if he is ready to take the next step.

"I don't think it (coming straight into the squad from school) has hampered me a lot," Ryan maintained.

"I've been in the (Leinster) sub academy with Dave Fagan and those guys, four gym sessions a week and I have put on a bit of weight thanks to those guys, a bit of strength as well.

"Their system is probably a bit different, they're in the gym a lot earlier but I don't think the size difference is that big this year."

Size is one thing that Ryan isn't likely to have to worry about against Wales as he looks to help his side get off to an ideal start.

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