Patience has been paramount for John Ryan with Ireland.
He was already gone 28 when Joe Schmidt handed him his debut, against Canada three years ago, and there have been just five starts across the 20 caps earned since then.
Same goes for the World Cup. Ireland are in Japan three weeks now and with two games already played but Ryan is the only one of the 30 fit players who have been here since mid-September not to have played some part yet.
That changes tomorrow when he wears the No. 3 jersey against Russia at Kobe’s Misaki Stadium.
“I’ve had my wait like no other man in the team, third game in and getting my first bit of the action. I’m looking forward to it now,” he admitted.
It will be his first appearance at a World Cup and such a staging post in life leads to all sorts of emotions and memories: Of family and of the coaches, such as Ger Spillane at Muskerry who started him out at 10 years of age, who helped him along up the ladder.
Ryan will be a part of an all-Munster front five tomorrow and that collective familiarity will be of benefit given the sharpish five-day turnaround for Ireland from the Japanese defeat and it should mitigate against the fact 11 changes have been made to the XV.
On-field preparations have been limited to yesterday’s session with the Kobelco Steelers which is an unusually light list of duties ahead of a game of such import, but Ireland have been working diligently on opposition profiles and setpieces and the like.
It’s doing no disservice to Russia to suggest the conditions inside the stadium will be as much of a concern as the team they face.
The heat and humidity inside the Misaki was suffocating on Monday when Scotland played Samoa.
Between them, the teams made 34 handling errors and there were innumerable times when players lost their footing as well. There is no preparing for that, even if Ireland did their warm-weather camp in Portugal and trained wearing bin bags back home in Ireland.
“We had dinner (Monday) night and the Scottish game was on the big screen. We had a nice sit-down and the match was on in the background. It looked like a hard game, conditions-wise. That’s something we’ll have to look at.
It was a greasy ball, sweaty, humid. We’re used to that at this stage. Two years ago I was here and there might not have been a roof over the pitch but it was very warm. We have to deal with more humidity here now but we’re all more than able for it.
“We did our warm-weather camps and our cooling strategies and all that. We’re prepared for that.”
Ryan isn’t a complete stranger to all things Russian.
He dipped into it a bit in college when he was studying US foreign policy but he will be hoping to share some more practical lessons when he packs down against a Russian scrum that impressed at times in recent months.
This is his moment. His and more besides on what is essentially an Irish midweek team. Tadhg Furlong remains the undisputed owner of the starting tighthead jersey and Andrew Porter’s ability to pitch in on either side of the front row makes him a uniquely valuable commodity.
Look back eight years to the last time Ireland played Russia at the World Cup and the team that day was littered with players who, to all intents and purposes, were dirt-trackers. Doing the business tomorrow is the only way Ryan and others can disabuse anyone of that notion.
“Every time you put on the jersey you are being told you’re putting your hand up for selection for the next game, but lessons were probably learned last week,” he explained. “It’s the next game, it’s not the game after that, it’s the one that’s right in front of you. I don’t need to be told it’s an opportunity. If you perform, you can surely state your case.
“So I’m certainly not going to leave this one pass me by.”