Sunday 21 April 2019

Ruddock not one to rock boat

Rhys Ruddock was a late addition to the Leinster squad for last weekend’s victory over Wasps
Rhys Ruddock was a late addition to the Leinster squad for last weekend’s victory over Wasps
Leinster coach Leo Cullen insists nobody at the club is getting carried away by comparisons between his side and the All Blacks

Rhys Ruddock has known more than his fair share of disappointment.

The 'manchild' was first pushed as a future Ireland captain, never mind regular international, when making his debut in unusual circumstances.

The Ireland U20 captain was busy leading his country at the Junior World Cup in Japan back in June 2009.

An injury to John Muldoon and the unavailability of Jamie Heaslip meant the call went out for Ruddock to make his way to New Zealand where Ireland were about to take on the fabled Maori in Rotorua.

The physically imposing flanker started in the back row in the uncapped contest and made his Ireland debut as a replacement against Australia the following week.

The forecast was for a long and illustrious career for Ireland, not long after choosing the country of his mother Bernadette over that of his father Mike, the 2005 Wales Grand Slam winning coach.

The 27-year-old has never been shy about admitting to being 'a mummy's boy' and he must have needed a soft place to fall when selection has not gone his way.

The latest example of Ruddock losing out came last week when Dan Leavy was preferred to join Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan in the back for Wasps.


It was an uncomfortable conversation between coach Leo Cullen and one of his most loyal leaders.

"I was hugely disappointed, that's the challenge because everyone here wants to play, and to play in the big games," said Ruddock.

"You've got as many, if not more guys, who aren't going to be involved as those who get the opportunity.

"That's the way anyone feels when they don't get selected, and it's really tough.

"If we're true to all the things that we say we stand for, then the team comes first.

"You just have to pick yourself up and do the best you can to prepare the team for the weekend.

"And I think everyone here does a good job of it, no-one mopes around and makes it obvious.

"People deal with it in their own way and then try to prepare the team as best they can."

Fast forward from Monday to last Friday week, Leavy pulls out and Ruddock is parachuted in from outside the 23.

"I was just kind of, 'what do I need to do? What place do I need to take?'

"You only have a split second," he said.

"Obviously, you prepare as if you're going to play, but there's just something there that's slightly different.

"Once I knew I was playing I just had to really narrow my focus as to what my job was and you're into it then.

"Once you're into it, it's no different," Ruddock adds.

It was literally that split second of, 'right, you're playing, get your job right and you're on,'"

One week on, Leavy has failed to shake a calf strain and Ruddock remains in situ.

Although it is highly debatable whether he would have been discarded again in light of his power-packed performance against Wasps.

The hysteria that has led some to compare Leinster to the All Blacks would be laughable if repeated in The New Zealand Herald.

People have a way of letting their emotions get the better of them, especially when it is not their job at stake.

Leo Cullen tended towards the more grounded view.

"Things can escalate quickly, I suppose," smiled the coach, regarding the hype.

"We just need to crack on.".

"There's no one getting too excited here, I don't think. We're keen just to improve, keep getting better and better.

"There's huge scope for us to get better."

The prospect of Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon has a way of concentrating all minds.


"One thing we talked about this week is doing it in the RDS is a totally different challenge to doing it away in France against a team that is going to be highly motivated off the back of a win away last week.

"If Toulouse win the game, they are out in front in the Pool.

"For us, we need to concentrate on the things that will deliver us a good performance.

"If we get a good performance, there is a good chance we get a positive result.

"That would set us up well for what's ahead in the competition."

Cullen took time out of his busy preparation to let everyone know Munster-bound Nick McCarthy is not the only one being offered incentives to move away.

"There's other things that clubs are promising," he said.

"We're aware of other teams, close to here, ringing up young players and selling them stories about what they are going to get somewhere else.

"We know that that's there. The club is very aware of it. What we can do about it is limited.

"We can just control trying to create a very good environment here where we think we'll make ambitious players better, try and maximise their potential and do all of those things.

"It's hard to know exactly what the future holds, players, ultimately, will decide to do different things and we understand and respect those decisions as well."

For all of that, the Leinster conveyor belt shows no sign on stalling in it's production of potential internationals.

Like Martin Luther King, Cullen even has a dream.

"It's one of the things I'd like to see, 15 Leinster players running out in green.

"That would be good, wouldn't it?"

Toulouse: T Ramos; C Kolbe, S Guitoune, R N'Tamack, M Medard; Z Holmes, S Bezy; C Castets, J Marchand (capt), C Faumuina, F Verhaeghe, J Tekori, R Elstadt, A Placines, S Tolofua. Replacements: L Ghiraldini, D Ainuu, M van Dyk, P Gayraud, L Madaule; Y Huget, A Dupont, A Bonneval.

Leinster: J Larmour; J Tomane, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong, D Toner, J Ryan, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: J Tracy, J McGrath, A Porter, S Fardy, S O'Brien; N McCarthy, R Byrne, R OLoughlin.

Verdict: Leinster

  • Champions Cup: Toulouse v Leinster, Tomorrow BT Sport 2 (KO3.15)

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