Ruddock: Honour to lead blues
Back row seizing the moment as he is comfortable in captaincy role
IN the words of that famous Wexfordian John F Kennedy; "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other..."
Rhys Ruddock is learning every day about the various tricks of the captaincy trade. With the likes of Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings and Brian O'Driscoll away on World Cup duty, the 20-year-old has relished the opportunity to wear the armband.
"At my age one of my main objectives is just to be selected regularly and with the opportunities to get game time during this World Cup period, it's about making the most of the time on the field. Captaincy is something that I've been asked to do since being at Millfield School and then with the Ospreys Under-16 and Under-18 sides.
"So, by the time I was asked to captain the Ireland Under-20 side, it was a role that I was more comfortable with. It's definitely something I enjoy and it's a massive honour to have been asked to lead Leinster over the last few weeks," Ruddock revealed ahead of tomorrow evening's 's visit of Aironi to the RDS (KO: 6pm).
Captaincy, Ruddock maintains, is as much about encouragement as it is about working to one's own strengths.
"There are a lot of leaders in the squad at the moment, even with some of the more obvious ones away in New Zealand. I wouldn't really know how to assess myself as a leader, as I am very much learning in the role as captain.
"First and foremost I want to lead by example and make sure I don't ask of others something which I fail to do myself. However, having quality, experienced players and coaches around you certainly makes it easier to do so.
"I know that my understanding of back play, for example, wouldn't be as strong as others like Isa (Nacewa) or Willie (Cillian Willis), so it's about garnering the experience of others and making sure that any decisions you make benefit the entire group first and foremost."
Ruddock is aware of the fickle nature of sport; one day you're on a high, the next you're sidelined. And he need look no further than his housemate Eamonn Sheridan to appreciate how fortunate he is to be able to train and play. Unfortunately, Sheridan is currently sidelined with a knee injury until the New Year.
"We all have a responsibility to lift the spirits of injured players and it's especially hard for Eamonn because he's one of my best friends in the squad, but he has had an awful time of it with injury.
"It's only natural that players can get down at times, but he's staying positive and setting new goals for himself and that's a great example to the rest of us."
The Academy graduate knows the power of momentum and he believes that the lessons learned over the last few weeks will stand to the squad as they look to build on the fine win away to the Scarlets last weekend.
Though keen to focus on the positives, the back-row forward knows that there are creases for the panel to iron out ahead of the visit of an in-form Aironi side who made the hosts fight hard for victory in the corresponding fixture last year.
"Winning -- and winning on the road against quality sides -- gives you a confidence boost and it shows that we have character. We made mistakes (in Llanelli) with some dropped balls at times but that's one area that we worked hard on fixing this week.
"We have to aim to be more clinical in possession and even though conditions last weekend dictated that the game was going to be a bit scrappy at times, hopefully our accuracy will improve as we play together more regularly and gain in experience as a group.
"Last year Aironi caught us out a few times and they really tested us in the RDS. It's simple really, we have to keep improving. After losing our proud home record last time out we want to start a fresh chapter because it's a real thrill to play in front of 15,000 people.
"They're a tough team to break down and they are defensively strong. Last year we were under a fair bit of pressure and we had to withstand that, so patience will be a big factor this weekend.
"Only a couple of years ago half of the guys in our squad were coming to watch Leinster as supporters and dreamed of one day playing for the team.
"That opportunity has come sooner for some than others but there's no time for reflecting on that or being satisfied with it; you have to take these chances. With opportunity comes a sense of great responsibility."
Captaincy is as much about doing the right thing at the right time and knowing when to act. It's all about leadership.