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Sunday 30 April 2017

Loss of Ryan can take heat out of engine room

Italy v Ireland, tomorrow, live, rte 2 (KO 2.25)

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

Donnacha Ryan can be harder on himself than on any opposition.

That is saying something.

The Munster second row has been imperious this season as the natural link between the province's old order and new.

He is a remnant of a once winning culture being revived under Rassie Erasmus and embraced by a new flood of disciples in red.

Even now, in the Autumn of his career, 33-year-old Ryan is wary of the garlands thrown around his neck on the merit of his outstanding form.

"If you say you're playing well, you are letting yourself up for a big fall," he said.

"That's why I really enjoy it at the moment.

"I know I will never get everything right.

"But, when you get a few miles on the clock, you realise you don't beat yourself up, persecute yourself like you would have done a lot before."

The veteran contemporary of that immovable double act Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan has seen it all and felt it too.

The demons of injury and non-selection still dance in his head, as recently as last week when he felt good to go.

However, coach Joe Schmidt decided to go with Iain Henderson, who has since succumbed to a hamstring strain.

The unwanted tag of 24th man had to be worn in Murrayfield as the lock dealt with the horrible reality of watching Ireland crash without being able to lift even a hand to help the cause.

It must have been a paralysing feeling of powerlessness. It was something he had to harbour long before then.

"I'm more a realist now," he said.

"When you've been dropped so many times at this stage, you're not as sour.

Miserable

"You know, you can be miserable about it, miserable around your family or you can be 'what's the next positive thing I can do?'

"No one wants to hang around with someone who's feeling sorry for themselves," he shared.

This Nenagh guardian will lead the resistance in Rome.

He knows no other way.

It is right there in his on-pitch demeanour and the way he digs in when knee deep in the trenches.

"I would probably be more action-based," he said.

"The thing that picks me up is trying to help lads along with anything I might see.

"I focus on what I can control. I wouldn't be going in shooting my mouth off.

"I would prefer it to be more action-based leadership than anything else.

"If anything practical needs to be said, I will say it."

And if it needs doing, all the better.

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