Cork native Dave Ryan has revealed how he turned down the chance to play for the United States during the summer so that he could pursue a professional career with Zebre in Italy.
And the former Munster prop has warned Connacht that they will underestimate Zebre at their peril in the opening game of the Heineken Cup in Parma on Saturday.
Ryan, who made 10 appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks, said that he found himself spoilt for choice during the summer after heading to Lazio last season when he was let go by the Reds.
The 26-year old from Bishopstown, whose brother Tim joined Newport Gwent Dragons this season, said he was thrilled to be asked about becoming an international with the US Eagles but then passed it up after newly-formed Zebre came calling.
“My mother is American and they were interested in me. They had seen footage of me and I guess they heard I was US eligible. They asked me to come over for a trial, but then the offer came in from Zebre.
“My contract with Zebre hinged on the fact that I could qualify for Italy in two years, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and the security of a two-year contract,” said the former Dolphin clubman.
Ryan said that Zebre were looking forward to their first season in the Heineken Cup and he is confident they can spring a few shocks.
“It will be tough, it is a really tough draw, but we’d be confident that we can compete.
“The coaches, Alexander Troncon, Vincenzo Troiani and Cristian Gajan, have been great, they are really pushing us on,” added Ryan.
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