Wednesday 29 January 2020

Life of Ryan is no joke

James Ryan with his Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year award
James Ryan with his Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year award

They are on a mission to go where no Irish team has gone before at the Rugby World Cup.

The sad stories that have accompanied these Boys in Green on all eight previous escapades have grown into a worrisome weight too heavy to bear, even for great men.

Not even the genius organisation and structure of Joe Schmidt could withstand the glut of injuries in 2015.

James Ryan has never been one to look too far ahead.

Before you can have an impact in the Land of the Rising Son, you have to get there.

The greatest fear could always lurk around the next corner.

"I've given much thought to the fact that, you know, you've got to get there first," he said.

"Hopefully, if you put in committed and accurate performances, we'll have a squad that can compete with anybody.

"But yeah, playing on a world stage for your nation is where you want to be.

"It's the dream of any athlete so if I was picked it would be, I'm sure, an unbelievable experience."

Ryan has even been to Japan before, making his international debut two years ago.

"I think it will stand to us when we get there, certainly having that experience there, certainly with the travel as well.

"We'll be travelling a lot on the bullet trains and we've done a bit of that, too."

The 23 year-old began his international odyssey like a bullet shot from a gun, his second touch yielding a first try in the second test in Tokyo.

"Yeah, 2017, I was on that tour and it was great, I really loved it," he said.

"Mad country, it's certainly different to playing in Europe just in terms of the environment."

The heat and humidity will be a problem, partly resolved by a week in Portugal, laid out to introduce some of the elements of climate change waiting in Japan.

This has included wearing plastic bags, in the style of ponchos, to shed body fat and intensify heat.

Last November, Ireland were riding high on their consistency and crushing physicality to scale heights previously unconquered.

The blows delivered by England and Wales in the Six Nations have led to a sobering-up process.

"I think having some of those losses, they definitely hurt a bit for the group. I like to think they're driving us," said Ryan.

The newly-anointed Rugby Writers' Player of the Year accepted his award at the Guinness Storehouse last night.

Perhaps, the acceptance of the personal vindication comes at the wrong time of the year. Last season is long gone now.

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