John Ryan described his part in Ireland’s run to the Grand Slam as a “minor role” but that did not take away from the delight of lifting silverware. Now the Munster prop has a chance to play a major part in delivering a rare series win in the Southern Hemisphere.
The tighthead starts for Ireland in tomorrow’s opening Test against Australia in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium as regular No3 Tadhg Furlong takes a back seat.
The Cork man is eager to make the most of a rare chance to make an impact from the first whistle.
Facing the Wallabies from the off will represent the biggest moment of the 29-year-old’s career as second-ranked Ireland face the world number four. After a season playing second fiddle to Stephen Archer in the Munster front row and getting 23 minutes off the bench in the Six Nations as Andrew Porter rose in prominence over the course of the championship as back-up to Furlong, Ryan could not be happier with his opportunity.
“I have started three games, against Japan, USA, and Fiji. I tore my calf and that was a disaster. I haven’t had big games, even at club level this year, so it is great to have a vote of confidence from the coaches,” said Ryan.
Ryan said he had not been perturbed by Archer’s return as starting tighthead at Munster and that it did not gnaw at him.
“I knew I had the same ability because I was still doing the work, the same work in the scrum. When he was ahead of me, it was because they preferred him and that was it. I got on with it.
“There were times obviously when I was disappointed not to be starting in the European games but then I got a big confidence boost from being selected for Ireland in November and to go back — and be an impact sub — like I was coming on after 45 or 50 minutes, it wasn’t as if I was just getting 10 minutes each match.
“I still had a big part to play in our games and then got another lift to play in the Six Nations.”
Yet though he did not start a Six Nations game, appearing off the bench against both France, where he made an excellent contribution to the game-clinching 41-phase drive in Paris, and then Wales, Ryan said it meant plenty to be a member of the Grand Slam squad.
“I definitely felt a part of it. How many players have won a Grand Slam in the country? To be part of two pretty important games — obviously all the games are important — and everyone wants to be on the pitch in Twickenham and wants to be involved.
“Obviously I was over there but in the capacity of being a reserve, but I felt just as much a part of it. I was lucky enough. A lot of the boys who were selected, who actually played, weren’t over there in Twickenham, guys like Chris Farrell.
“It was great to be there. Everyone felt a part of it, it was a big effort from the whole squad and we weren’t kicking the crap out of each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays just to be the bibs. We felt a real part of it.
“Immediately you feel, ‘God, like, winning feels pretty good’. You want to be here again. You are promising yourself you want to do it again. It is not as easy as that.”
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