Sunday 24 March 2019

Trimming Ryan down to size is priority for Beard

Adam Beard in action against Ireland's James Ryan three years ago during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE
Adam Beard in action against Ireland's James Ryan three years ago during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

All winning streaks have to end.

James Ryan discovered this much on last summer's tour to Australia; his 24th game and a first defeat in the opening June Test.

Not that he cared, much. "I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it."

His run at international level was, presumably, as much ignored by him as it was lauded by his supporters, winning a Grand Slam amidst eight undefeated games.

Tomorrow, however, he comes face to face with a player in the second-row who can boast an even more impressive statistic.

Ospreys' skyscraper Adam Beard has had a few close shaves but in 12 internationals - nine starts - he has yet to taste defeat. Ryan aims to make it an unlucky thirteenth.

Despite their relative youth, this will not be the first international clash between Beard (23) and Ryan (22) which may produce a Grand Slam.

Three years ago, Beard was in the Welsh U-20 side which kick-started a Grand Slam-winning campaign with a 35-24 win in Donnybrook over an Irish side captained by the emerging Ryan.

"So I have got one up on him," chirps the Osprey, named in Warren Gatland's unchanged line-up as the Kiwi bids for a record third Grand Slam as a Six Nations head coach.

"It would be nice to get a second. He's a great athlete and has come on leaps and bounds in the Test arena.

"It's been good to watch a guy of my age and see what could happen if I keep playing well, learning and developing. I'm looking forward to the challenge of facing him.

"I never think of losing. As soon as you do you're on a downward slope. Obviously you don't want to get too complacent or too up yourself.

"But if you keep your feet on the ground and work hard and have a winning mentality you'll be alright."

Beard may be relatively unknown on this side of the pond but he is fêted in the principality; as Wales bid for more illustrious history, so does he, potentially upstaging a once-favourite son of the south-west in the near future.

Between 1975 and 1978, the Swansea RFC second-row Geoff Wheel went 15 games unbeaten in red - winning three titles and two Grand Slams on the way - and Beard is now chasing that mark.

"I hadn't heard of him until people started bigging up the record but now it could happen I have found out a little bit about him," says the younger man whose Grand Slam memories are obviously of a more recent vintage. "2005 was probably the biggest one, with the Gethin Jenkins charge-down and it was against Ireland as well!"

Efficiency

The engine room will be key; both sides have struggled this season but Ireland's efficiency against France has timed their run to perfection.

"We have been on the laptops every day looking at opposition line-outs, in the way Ireland defend and attack," adds Beard. "The lineout probably hasn't been our best this Six Nations and we know that. We take that personally but we know we have got one more chance to go out there and make a big statement."

At least he will be there to make it. A clash of heads with Tomas Francis in a double tackle last weekend left him obviously battered and bruised.

"Five stitches in my cheek. They taped that up. Then I came down from a maul and got clipped by Josh Navidi. Four more in my eyebrow.

"They couldn't tape that one up. I'd just have my eyes out and probably wouldn't have been able to breathe! I had to come off with blood and have some stitches but it was all worth it in the end."

Victory always is.

Irish Independent

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