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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Rhys Ruddock is near Joe Schmidt's plans

A big performance against Scarlets could lead to Irish recall for flanker

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock
Leinster's Rhys Ruddock

These days in Wales hold a special place in the heart of Rhys Ruddock given his obvious ties to the country.

If it wasn't for a fractured forearm, the flanker would definitely be involved for Ireland against Wales in the Six Nations tomorrow week.

November was a time of excitement in the extended Ruddock family as the 24-year-old stormed around the Aviva Stadium to complete matches against South Africa, where he scored his first international try, and Australia for his fifth cap on his third start.

"I would absolutely love to be involved in that one. I'm not going to lie," he said.

"My Dad's side of the family are all living over there. They'll be at the game. They all bought tickets a while ago, hoping I would be involved."

Not that the son of the Grand Slam winning coach would have you believe he is anything special.

"They would go to a lot of the rugby internationals, anyway. It is a big rugby family.

"I would say they will be disappointed if I am not involved. But, it will mean they will be cheering for Wales rather than Ireland."

BREAKOUT SEASON

This was his breakout season at the highest level, Ruddock looking set to hold onto the green jersey for the foreseeable future until a fractured forearm against Harlequins in the Champions Cup in December took longer to heal than the minimum amount of time he had hot-wired into his brain.

"With a bone, there is no definitive timeline. They say 6-8 weeks with a fracture," he said.

"I was reviewing it every week, two weeks with X-rays. It is just a case of how well your bone knits back together.

"The position it is in the forearm, you're going to take a lot of collisions on it.

"In my head, I said 'right, I'll be back in six weeks'. Evidently, that wasn't the case."

He made his comeback last Friday in the PRO12 League away to the Ospreys, played all 80 minutes too.

The signs were positive after an excruciating eleven weeks out of the game. Not six. Not eight. Eleven.

"The good thing is that I feel fit," he said.

"I looked at the stats. I am as fit, if not fitter than I was prior to the injury.

"It is just about getting game time under my belt and having a chance to prove yourself to the coaches."

Ruddock hangs on to the hope that he can give a blockbusting performance against the Scarlets tomorrow to force his way into Joe Schmidt's thoughts.

He can't be too far away given how he found his feet straight away against the Ospreys last week in a dull 9-9 draw in Swansea and how Schmidt has not hesitated in dropping Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy into the Six Nations deep end.

First, Ruddock has to deal with what is in front of him in West Wales and promote Leinster's drive towards the top two in the League, despite their inconsistent and unconvincing form of late.

"The main driving factor for us is the fact that we've been looking to put a big performance together," he said.

"Usually, in these four weeks, we really come together. Last year, we had 19 points from 20. This year, we're disappointed with the way things have gone, so far."

There are no easy outs, no easy answers. It all comes down to delivery of what is practiced during the week.

"Our performance levels haven't been good enough," he offered.

"As to why that is, we've just been too inaccurate. It's always troublesome when you go from having a team that plays together to bringing in new faces.

"It is not that the lads haven't stepped up individually. It is more the collective. We haven't got that same accuracy we had prior to this period.

"I think three weeks training together and three games together, hopefully is enough to put things right this weekend."

As coach Matt O'Connor has said recently, the rounds are running out.

And faster than most clubs would like. Time is a friend to no one at this stage of the season unless you are sitting pretty at the top of the table.

PERFORMANCE

"Our main motivation is putting a big performance in, making up for the disappointment we've had prior to this," added Ruddock.

"The lads did well against Zebre to get a bonus point with the way the game went. It was quite scrappy.

"To get a draw in Ospreys, we hadn't won there in this League since three or four years ago.

"We're going in the right direction. A win is a must this weekend."

 

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