James Ryan believes Andy Farrell’s Ireland are close to a big performance against Test rugby’s big guns and has asked Irish supporters for more patience as inexperienced players find their feet at the highest level.
Ryan, 24, looks set to lead Ireland for consecutive weekends when they host Autumn Nations Cup pool opponents Georgia in Dublin on Sunday.
The lock captained his country for the first time as an experimental Irish side fell to a disappointing defeat to a powerful England outfit last Saturday.
The Irish lineout badly misfired at Twickenham as try-scoring opportunities went begging and Ryan’s side failed to find a way around or through an English defensive brick wall until a Jacob Stockdale try on 73 minutes as the Six Nations champions ran out comfortable 18-07 winners.
Speaking on Tuesday as preparations continued for the visit of Georgia, nilled by England and Wales in their opening Autumn Nations Cup pool games, Ryan pointed to the two well-taken but avoidable English tries and two “stupid penalties”, one of them he conceded.
He believes if Ireland can learn the lessons from Saturday’s defeat, a big team performance against elite opposition will soon follow.
"So if you look at where they're getting their scores from, obviously they defended unbelievably well, but I don't think we're very far from being able to go toe-to-toe with the world's top couple of teams,” Ryan said. “We'll take confidence from that.
"Yes, we've got to learn and really digest and make sure we're not repeating the same mistakes but at the same time, if we're a bit more accurate and are not giving them that access into the game, I think these games will be very close.
"We'll see how we go in the next couple of weeks and we've got a Six Nations to come around after that and we'll get an understanding then of where we are but I don't think we're far away."
With regular captain Johnny Sexton still rehabbing a hamstring injury sustained in the opening-round win over Wales a fortnight ago, Ryan looks set to lead another much-changed side on Sunday as Ireland face their only Tier 2 opposition of the autumn competition ahead of a last-round play-off for final positions.
Asked if hoped the public stays patient with an evolving Ireland squad just seven games into Farrell’s tenure, Ryan replied: "Yeah. Absolutely.
"It was a relatively inexperienced side compared to those guys who'd been together for 10 years and I was proud of the lads.
"I thought we really fronted up defensively, guys like Caelan Doris really stood up.
"We didn't finish those opportunities that we (got). I thought we kept slamming the door, working really hard for each other and we'll take massive confidence from that physicality the lads showed.
"The next layer of that is about being a bit smarter."
The second row added: “We have to be a bit more clinical. When we're a bit calmer at times we get into their 22, when we've got a bit more calmness about us, we're able to see pictures and play to the space as opposed to trying to run over them or run into them all the time.
“We've got to build it during the week by the pressure we put on each other. We've got to learn from these games - the France game, the England game. We've got to take the learnings so we're not repeatedly making the same mistakes.
"We've just got to be good enough players to have the ability to have that bit of calmness, to see pictures and react accordingly. It's definitely a focus point for us over the next two weeks in a couple more games.