Thankfully Munster and Ireland second-row forward Donnacha Ryan isn’t a man to shirk a challenge.

Twenty-four hours before Ryan and his team-mates host Leinster at a sold-out Thomond Park, the big Nenagh man will be heading for Lough Derg to partake in a chilly Christmas Day tradition.

He revealed: “We’ll go to mass, have dinner and then go for a swim in Lough Derg. It’s just a thing we do in the local town. Sometimes there is a nice hot port there! We get changed in the back of a van so it’s very posh!

“There are a lot more lads there than you’d think and it’s a great atmosphere.

“That’s what it’s all about, meeting people you haven’t seen in a long time. A small town like Nenagh, people come back once a year.

“You mightn’t haven’t seen them in five or 10 years, maybe they live in Australia or wherever. Often they’re a lot older and a lot bigger!”

Ryan, who turned 33 earlier this month, intends having his 6ft 7 inch, 17st 13lbs frame in perfect shape for Thomond Park on Monday evening although he won’t spare the turkey on the big day — “it is very good for you, part of a healthy diet.”

Remind Ryan of what lies in wait 24 hours later, however, and his mood changes immediately. “The intensity is there because you know the players so well,” he says. “The depth Leinster have in their squad is tremendous. Their third or fourth choice players are internationals so they are never short.

“They have the players and the experience and a fantastic coaching staff too. They are a high scoring team which is very well organised, very clinical at the breakdown and they are very technical. They put 20 plus points on us the last time we played so we have to be on our game.”

And he is relishing the fact the game is at Thomond Park. “It is great to see our supporters coming out in a full capacity stadium with 26,000 plus. Hopefully, the atmosphere will be great.”

Injury has been no friend of Donnacha Ryan whose 43 Irish caps would be considerably more were it not for a mysterious foot ailment that kept him out of the game for a couple of years. Happily, those issues are now in the past and he can focus on an interrupted run of games. “Every day it’s about training and helping to recover from the previous weekend, making sure of making a plan for next weekend because it is important to have that same planning process every week,” he reasons.

“You are in the rhythm of analysing opposition and analysing your own game. If you clock out of that scenario for a week or so, you lose the rhythm of doing that, so it is important that when you are switched on to make sure that when you are doing your analysis week in and week out to develop and help other guys. It keeps you switched on in that frame of mind.”

Facing up to reality has never been a problem for Ryan as is evident from his reaction to last week’s defeat by Leicester. “I don’t think we deserved to win,” he stated.

“You can talk about the kick at the end of the game, but we had enough opportunities in the game to close it out, to make sure to put a bit of distance between the teams.

“But between discipline and the breakdown we weren’t where we needed to be in comparison to the week before. They were full value for their win. They turned it around in a week. All credit to them.”

Guinness Pro12 - Munster v Leinster

Stephen’s Day: Thomond Park, 5.30pm

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

TV: Sky Sports 2, TG4

Betting: Munster 4/7, Leinster 8/5, Draw 14/1


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