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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rhys: Ireland is on my mind

Ruddock wants Leinster lift for November hopes

8 March 2014; Rhys Ruddock, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Italy. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
8 March 2014; Rhys Ruddock, Ireland. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Italy. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Manchild. Nathan Hines started it. Jamie Heaslip kept it going. And it has stuck. Rhys Ruddock is sometimes known inside the four walls of the Leinster changing-room for the ridiculously sculpted physique he brought to Leinster as a teenager.

It was Mike Ruddock, his father, who always told him a man only really grows into his full strength at the age of 23. How right he was in the case of his son.

Struggled

Last season, Ruddock broke through as Leinster's first choice blindside as Kevin McLaughlin struggled with injury. The hip problems that had hindered his trademark hard-carrying were behind him, like so many fallen opponents.

The problems now are all in front of him. He starts with Cardiff this evening. Then come Munster. Wasps and Castres Olympique in the Rugby Champions Cup follow after a trip to Parma. And the November internationals.

"Obviously, the Irish set-up is on my mind," Ruddock said. "I will try to put in some big performances moving forward towards the November internationals. At the moment, I have only played one game this season. It is a bit early to be thinking about that."

Ruddock was at the Irish camp last weekend where his Ulster brethren warned of any complacency against Ulster's most recent victims, Cardiff.

"The main thing is that they'll be in the same sort of mental state as us, they'll be kind of hurting from last week but very keen to put a few things right," said Ruddock.

"By all accounts from the Ulster guys, they were flattered by the score-line last week. Speaking to the forwards, they said the Cardiff pack formed a real physical threat.

"If they can correct a few errors they definitely have the players on the field that can cause damage". There is already plenty of positivity around the signing of Wallaby international Kane Douglas, making his debut less than a week after arriving in Dublin.

"I'm sure he has a lot to add and we'll see this weekend just how good he is," he said. "There's a lot of responsibility there, never mind trying to combine with new people around you.

"But he picked up everything and seems like a very smart bloke".

Dominated

Gordon D'Arcy is another international who will have to show his smarts in turning the clock back ten years to the two months stretch when he dominated the 2014 Six Nations at thirteen.

The injuries to flankers Sean O'Brien (ankle) and Shane Jennings (hamstring) opens the door for Dominic Ryan to finally show what he can do as the Rugby Champions Cup looms on the horizon.

There is also a chance for redemption for Michael Bent as Cian Healy's hamstring injury could be serious and Jack McGrath is also troubled a calf problem.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, G D'Arcy, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, S Cronin, M Moore, D Toner, K Douglas, R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Heaslip (capt).

Cardiff: R Patchell; A Cuthbert, C Allen, D Hewitt, G Watkins; G Davies, L Jones; G Jenkins, K Dacey, A Jones, J Hoeata, C Dicomidis, J Turnbull, S Warburton, J Navidi.

Verdict: Leinster.

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