The vision of John Ryan shunting France’s number one loosehead prop Cyril Baille into reverse gear in Toulouse on Sunday was a telling reminder of just what Munster will be missing when the veteran front-rower plays his final game for his province in Italy this Saturday.
Ryan, 34, is expected to bow out on 206 appearances following the BKT URC fixture at Benetton in Treviso at the weekend before he and his young family start the next adventure with a move to Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island and a Super Rugby season with the Chiefs.
Saturday afternoon’s game will bring an end to an unexpected three-month return to Munster when Ryan’s performances underlined what a mistake it was to deem him surplus to requirements 13 months ago, prompting the Corkman affectionately known as “Boris” by his squad-mates, to join Wasps last summer.
The demise of the English Premiership side due to its financial collapse in October left Ryan and the rest of the Wasps squad unemployed but luckily Munster offered a temporary lifeline to their former player and for the second time in his professional career, the tighthead will leave with his head held high having given everything for the cause.
Forwards coach Andi Kyriacou paid tribute to Ryan but also insisted that Munster’s remaining stocks at tighthead prop were plentiful. The onus will fall on Ryan’s contemporary Stephen Archer and rising force Roman Salanoa in the short-term while Keynan Knox was declared on Tuesday as nearing a return from the knee injury which has kept the South African-born tighthead on the sidelines since the start of November.
“I think we’re incredibly well stocked,” Kyriacou said. “Roman has put his hand up and performed really well for us. Knoxy has worked seriously hard to get himself back fit again after the injuries. And Archie is training unbelievably well as well.
“We have got a good group of tightheads there, any one of who can come in and perform well for us. There is no worry or stress for us in that position at the moment. We have got good players who are able to come in and perform.”
The forwards coach added: “Knoxy has been on the field, doing bits and pieces in and around what the physio and rehab lads are deeming the right bits for him to do in terms of his rehab and progression back into playing. He's doing more and more each day, so I'd imagine it will be very soon that we see him available and ready to play.” Of the departing Ryan, there was nothing but praise.
“John is about this weekend and then he’s off to the Chiefs,” Kyriacou said. “We’re obviously disappointed to see him go but he’s had to do what’s right for him and look, he’s been excellent since he’s come back from Wasps.
“He’s added real value, not just in his performances but the way he’s approached things with younger players in the squad, just passing on all his knowledge, live within sessions and also after via video.
“He’s been great to have back in the building and we just wish him well for the next few months.”
Kyraicou’s tribute echoed head coach Graham Rowntree who lauded Ryan’s performance in the 20-16 Heineken Champions Cup defeat at Toulouse last Sunday and that scrum penalty won at Baille’s expense in particular.
"He’s been exceptional,” Rowtree said. “I've never seen him scrummage like that. We'll miss him, hopefully we'll see him again but it's an exciting move for him and his family and we wish him all the best.
"He's been great for us coming back. It’s been a cameo moment, a cameo few months."