'The sky is the limit for him' - McFadden tips James Ryan as possible Lions captain for 2021 tour of South Africa
Leinster wing Fergus McFadden has hailed James Ryan after his sensational season and tipped the youngster as a possible Lions captain in the future.
After an injury-ravaged first season in professional rugby, Ryan won every possible trophy in year two, claiming the PRO 14, Champions Cup and Six Nations Grand Slam.
The 21-year-old second row only lost as a professional for the first time against Australia in Brisbane in the first test of the summer tour, and McFadden thinks that it was a good thing for Ryan's outrageous streak to come to an end - especially since the prize of a series win is still on the cards.
"I'm actually glad for him that the monkey is off his back about not losing a professional match, it was getting ridiculous with all the media around that," McFadden told The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast.
"I'm sure it was a bit of a relief to get people to stop talking about that because hopefully they go on to win the series now and it won't make a difference."
After seeing him up close during Leinster and Ireland's run to glory, McFadden thinks Ryan has a huge future ahead of him that could include Lions captaincy honours when the next tour comes around in 2021.
"The sky is the limit for James," he said.
"The way he plays, for me, is enough to be in the mix for a Lions captaincy in South Africa in a few years time. As you [Luke Fitzgerald] said, he is turning into a Paul O'Connell type of machine. The carries and stats he gets through are freakish. A phenomenal player for both Leinster and Ireland going forward."
As well as his huge work-rate and strong ball carrying, McFadden also paid tribute to how Ryan gelled with senior players after coming into the Leinster squad as an underage sensation.
"The most impressive thing is that after captaining St Michael's and Ireland U20, some younger guys can could have come in and maybe spoke a bit too much but James just kept his head down and worked his arse off," McFadden said.
"He got a bad injury last year which maybe in a roundabout way worked out for him because he was able to put on a bit of bulk. James just does his talking on the field. There's no forward in Ireland who works harder than him at the moment. Even the game we lost against Australia, his stats were phenomenal."