Tuesday 12 December 2017

Flanker Ruddock: It's not about being 'The Man'

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock during squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Leinster's Rhys Ruddock during squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile


It is getting mighty crowded in the Ireland back-row.

Leinster's too.

Coach Leo Cullen cannot be too concerned with who will or won't make the flight to South Africa in June.

Jamie Heaslip's shirt is still sacrosanct. Seán O'Brien will be back from a badly torn hamstring in four weeks. Jack Conan has been hobbled by a foot injury.

The onus is on Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy, Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy to make the right impression during the week so that they can make the team on the weekend.

They don't come any bigger than Munster at The Aviva Stadium on Saturday. While it would be foolish to read too much into the individual one-on-ones, the priority list would have Ruddock, Van der Flier and Murphy in the melting pot of Joe Schmidt's possibilities.

The capacity for Ruddock to excel at blindside, to cope admirable at seven or eight and do a passable impression in the second-row makes him a versatile option for a coach always looking for balance.

Loose forward Ruddock has had time to get a close-up view of Munster's captain CJ Stander.

"It's not about trying to be 'The Man'," said Ruddock.

"You play to your strengths. He's a obviously a very good ball-carrier and someone we need to be very well aware of. It's a big challenge for us defensively and something we've matched in the past and, when we've let ourselves down, those guys have dictated the tempo of the game and the way the game is played.

"For us, it's a big measure defensively if we can control guys like that and limit the effectiveness they have."

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