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One Ireland cap not nearly enough for flanker Dominic Ryan

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Leinster's Dominic Ryan

Leinster's Dominic Ryan

SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Dominic Ryan

Dominic Ryan went from Ireland international at The Aviva Stadium one Saturday to Leinster impact replacement against Treviso in the PRO12 League eight days later.

And it was a great experience followed by a bad one.

First, the international debut against Georgia.

"The anthem was really, really special; standing with the likes of Ian Madigan and Jack McGrath, players you had played with since you were 18 and things that can happen along the way up.

"I was even rooming with Ian Madigan that night and we were just thinking about everything that had to fall into place, and we were so lucky that we got to play together.

"I think lining up for the anthem and then I suppose that night and just kind of the realisation that night.

"It didn't come up until I went to bed that 'you're an international'. And it's great."

The graduate of Commerce from UCD is quite the methodical type, one would imagine.

"At the start of the season, I tend to set goals, as close as three weeks

"I'll target the next few games. My goal was to play with Leinster, then to play in Europe and then my longer term goal was to play for Ireland and get capped in November.

"And when you get picked it makes you so much hungrier. I was really pi**ed off then when I wasn't involved against Australia, and even in the first week (against South Africa).

"Despite the fact that I hadn't played for Ireland I was a bit disappointed not to be somewhat involved."

The appetite has always been there. It has grown.

"It definitely makes you hungrier, yeah," he said.

"It makes you realise you're that bit closer and rugby players are greedy in a way. When you get a little bit you want a whole lot more.

"Yeah, it's definitely made me a lot more eager to just keep on playing."

There wasn't much in the call between Ryan and Munster's Tommy O'Donnell for the number seven jersey once Chris Henry withdrew.

"I felt I was up there with other players and I suppose it was tight," he offered.

"Joe said to me it was a very tight call, particularly for the Australia game.

"He said: 'I felt you played quite well against Georgia. The trouble is Tommy played very well as well, and I went with Tommy for the South Africa game, so he'll be there.

"Look, go back to your province, just keep up the performances and you never know what could change come the Six Nations.'"

The next gear change was down and it wasn't a smooth ride out in Treviso last Sunday.

Ryan was not alone in thinking Leinster's mental edge was blunt as they were lucky to escape with a draw.

"Yeah, I think in games like that, we didn't show them the respect they deserved. I don't think we had the right mindset for it," said the always honest broker.

"If you look at the team sheet, we had no excuse whatsoever to lose that game."

The sense of déjà vu must have been almost tangible, especially after four wins, two in the Rugby Champions Cup, seemed to iron out the creases from their PRO12 demise to Munster at The Aviva at the beginning of October.

STRIDES FORWARD

"From the Munster week, we'd made strides forward and last Sunday was the first backward step that we've taken in the last few games, so that was quite disappointing from a squad point of view."

Forwards coach Leo Cullen has already spoke frankly. Matt O'Connor has yet to have his say. He must have been fuming at how lacking in physicality Leinster were in Italy.

"We'll see what Matt has to say. I think we all know, to be honest. I was really in a bad mood on Sunday night," acknowledged Ryan.

"When you think it's a game you should win, the draw almost feels like a loss in a way."

The gauntlet had been thrown down last week for those players who truly felt on the verge of Champions Cup rugby to step forward against Treviso.

It just didn't happen.

"Yeah, well I think that's the thing. There were a good few players who are maybe on the fringes. That was one of the points that we brought up.

"We said it all week: 'this is a chance for people to show themselves before the internationals come back into the team.'

"I don't know what it was but the hunger just didn't seem to be there."

That won't do against the League-leading Ospreys on Saturday, the Welsh club tasting PRO12 defeat for the first time this season up in Ulster.

The first thing Ryan has to do is earn the Leinster jersey and then go about keeping it, as Schmidt forensically dissects club form as a guide to international selection.

It will all start at home to The Ospreys.

"It's a big weekend this weekend. If I can put together another few good performances in Europe, then who knows?"

Ryan knows all about the sling and arrows of injury. It just so happens Sean O'Brien is out until the new year.

Shane Jennings is still not back from his hamstring and Jordi Murphy is not match sharp just yet.

"It's unlucky for Jordi that he was injured at the start of the season and I think maybe, as I've said before, when you're injured you can only do so much fitness in the gym to get you match fit.

"But mental match fitness is something you can't practice without playing games.

"So it's tough that he's coming into a really, really important time of the season and intense period of games. Hopefully now if I can just go well over the next couple of weeks I can maybe cement a place."

Where Leinster could be forgiven for taking Treviso lightly, there can be no such excuse against The Ospreys.

"Out of any team in the league, they're the ones who seem to beat us the most," says Ryan.

"We drew and lost to them in the league last year and beat them in the Heineken.

"The RDS is almost their fortress because they've won here so many times in the final. They're one of the teams who even though they have 10 odd internationals away, they still have good depth and are still a good side. We certainly have to really up our game from last weekend."

Leinster must meet their standards, just as Ryan must meet his.


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