Determined Donnacha up for battle
As far as Donnacha Ryan is concerned, he might as well worry about getting run over in the street than bother calculating Ireland’s world ranking scenarios ahead of today’s clash with Argentina.
By Simon Lewis
For him, it is cart-before-the-horse stuff, and just not worth the effort so the Ireland lock will ignore the permutations and instead concentrate on getting his team’s performance right.
“I don’t think we can allow ourselves to think about [rankings]. If you do, you’re going to be worrying about stuff like crossing the road and worrying about being hit by a car. You’d be there all day.
“So we have to focus on being mentally right. We’ve done the technical stuff, built nicely towards the game and now we have to bring it onto the pitch and focus.
“This is the sort of cauldron you want to be in. Everyone wants to be playing in a game like this, that’s why you train so hard, to test your mettle and Argentina are going to do that.”
Ryan made his Ireland debut against Argentina four years ago but his tally of seven caps, all off the bench, in the three seasons up to 2010-11 reflected the lack of starting opportunities at Munster. Last season, though, his career trajectory enjoyed a sharp incline, going to the World Cup, cementing a place in the province’s second row, playing 14 Tests and winning Munster’s player of the year award. With Paul O’Connell’s injury struggles, Ryan, 28, has also assumed leadership of the Ireland lineout.
“Yeah, they’re my calls, to the best of my ability anyway,” he said. “I only had the opportunity calling in the Six Nations when Paul left and the summer tour. I wouldn’t have normally got to call lineouts with Munster because Paul is there and then Micko [O’Driscoll] would have done it.
“Obviously it’s more work on the video and basically learn an awful lot more on the training park and field, because it’s a skill in itself, trying to learn how to defend other teams. It just boils down to experience.”
That learning process has been aided by playing every minute of the last six Tests, barring the five minutes he spent in concussion assessment against South Africa two weeks ago, the chief lesson being the art of keeping calm, which helped in overcoming a wobbly start for the Irish lineout.
“When you lose one, the main thing is not to panic. You can get a bit flustered because they’re all so big and seem to cover everywhere but if you just relax and stay cool, you’d be surprised where you’d find space.”
The defeat to South Africa marked a first Test outing for a Ryan-Mike McCarthy second row, also with Richardt Strauss at hooker, and while it is a work in progress, the Munster man is pleased the way it’s developing.
“I’d be a big fan of Mike,” Ryan said. “I’ve played with him for a good while now, with the As and stuff like that. He’s a very robust type of fella, very physical and I love playing alongside him. He’s great craic as well.
“I suppose at this level we’ve only played together just the once so we’re trying to build a good relationship and the more time we spend together as regards set-piece and around the park, we get a good relationship going.”
What matters for Ireland today is not to let up the intensity displayed in the first half against the Boks.
“We need to keep that intensity we had in the first half and even throughout the second half, it was just a few things went against us... they raised the intensity and we weren’t able to hang on to it.
“It’s just maintaining that aggression and taking positives out of that South Africa game, which we did. It’s just to up it a gear as well. We’re always looking for those small percentages, it’s maintaining that for 80 minutes.”
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