The arrival of Simon Zebo and Paul O’Connell in Paris this summer may have grabbed most attention but another former Ireland international Donnacha Ryan is determined to make a mark in the French capital this season.
The 34-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down and he has hit the ground running in his second season with Racing 92.
They opened their campaign with a 25-9 win away to Toulon and on Sunday will entertain Clermont Auvergne at the U Arena in Paris.
And Ryan, who has Zebo to keep him company at Racing, with O’Connell and another former Munster player Mike Prendergast on the coaching ticket with their Parisian rivals Stade Francais, says he is in flying form as he heads into his 15th season of senior rugby.
The legs are going good and I feel a lot stronger this year. I did a lot of work with Edel Fanning in Santry Sports Clinic during the off-season, got some fantastic rehab work done with her on a shoulder issue, along with Eanna Falvey and Colm Fuller there.
“It has left me feeling really good heading into the new season. As it stands this is my last year with Racing so we will see how it goes. The body feels good, I have had a great pre-season.”
He moved to Paris over a year ago but a neck injury delayed his debut until December.
He then became an ever-present as Racing reached the Champions Cup final, only to go down to Leinster with Ryan suffering a shoulder injury which forced him off.
But now having fully recovered, he is determined to push on and is delighted to have Zebo for company this season and said the Corkman has been an instant hit in Paris.
First of all, his positive attitude is awesome, everybody in the squad warmed to him right away so he’s really settled in quickly,” says Ryan.
“The language is not as big a difficulty for him, the coaches love him as well and he’s brought a lot into the group. He seems to be enjoying Paris as well and he will make a big contribution on the field.
“We all know he has a massive eye for a gap so sometimes when there is some broken, unstructured play, it suits him down to the ground and he will get those opportunities here. It’s great to have another Munster man alongside you,” added Ryan.
He himself is thrilled to have made the move, not just from a rugby perspective as he has enjoyed life in Paris and France.
I hadn’t a word of French when I came over but thankfully that has improved. We do all our meetings in French, I’m able to converse but it’s a work in progress.
“It’s a different lifestyle as well, get to see some fantastic places and meet some great people.
“It’s been very enjoyable so far and I’m really looking forward to this season.
“The rugby is a lot more free-flowing and it can get very fast when it gets going but I find the hot conditions, especially down in the south of France, tough and I look forward to getting back to the U Arena,” said Ryan, who won the last of his 47 Irish caps against England in March 2017.