Ryan excels everywhere, especially ‘top two inches'

Ryan excels everywhere, especially ‘top two inches'
James Ryan of Ireland wins possession in the lineout ahead of Scott Cummings of Scotland. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

One more Test and another phenomenal performance from James Ryan as the Ireland lock moved ever closer to taking on the talismanic role Paul O’Connell once performed in the green jersey. This really was a tour de force from the 23-year-old as his team hit the ground running in their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Ryan played no small part in that bonus-point win and not just with the opening try as he struck from short range to convert an attack started by fellow lock Iain Henderson’s linebreak. The second row co-led his team for carries with 15 and tackles, 14, none of which were missed.

As part of the lineout think tank, he also helped to engineer a perfect return from a dozen throws by Rory Best in a set-piece that had previously been under pressure following last month’s meltdown at Twickenham. The Ireland pack also gave the captain the springboard for his 14th-minute try off a lineout maul.

Ryan even snuffed out Scotland’s best chance of a consolation try, picking off a Stuart McInally throw on the Ireland five-metre line five minutes from the end. Ryan was delighted with his return to form. "Today was a good test for us particularly when the rain started belting down. I was really happy with how the guys went.

I took one ball towards the end when they shifted up towards the front and the space was in the middle and in the pouring rain, ball like a bar of soap, Besty hits me at full extension. I was delighted with that. We made some good progress today.

“Traditionally it’s been a real strength for us. Obviously there was a couple of games in the summer when it didn’t go well for us and we weren’t where we needed to be. I think today was a good platform. More time we spend together hopefully the better it will get.”

Ryan took the same amount of pleasure in the return of Ireland’s driving maul: “We pride ourselves on set-piece and there is no better feeling than when we get a good drive going and get over the line. We were happy with the lineout today.”

“It is a bit different than how it felt four or five weeks ago. I think the support today was unbelievable, and even in Yokohama itself it was class. In the past we have rested on our laurels and patted ourselves on the back but that’s not going to be good enough the further we go. We’ve got to just keep building.

“Lads are number one a bit relieved, obviously Scotland are a quality side, and we had to play them first up. And two, we’re pretty happy with today so we’ll enjoy it.”

Ireland have already done some fine recovery work in turning around a year that had threatened to derail their World Cup bid before it started, heavy defeats to England home and away, and another to Wales in Cardiff taking away the momentum created during an epic 2018.

“I think it’s all in the top two inches at this level,” Ryan said of the transformation. "I think when we’re mentally primed and ready to go for the collisions and all that comes with the game, that’s when we’re at our best.

The last few games that’s been the difference, that we’ve built into the week and when the games come it hasn’t taken us by surprise, so we’re ready to go.”


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