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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Ryan: Comparisons with O'Connell 'inappropriate'

AMBITION: James Ryan
AMBITION: James Ryan

The comparisons are unavoidable, especially the way in which James Ryan embraces the dogged determination and full-mettle mindset required to pack down as a tight-head scrummager when that role, traditionally, is played by the bigger of the two locks.

In the cases of Paul O'Connell and James Ryan, it is not the size of the dog in the fight as much as the fight in the dog.

For the moment, 22-year-old Ryan is not ready to be compared to Ireland's greatest ever second row.

"It's really humbling to be compared to someone like that," said Ryan. "But it's not really appropriate. He's one of the greats of Irish rugby."

Make no mistake, Ryan's aim is to be an all-time world great. Just like O'Connell. The Leinster lock will do all that he can to be as good as he can.

Ryan has already made contact with the former British & Irish Lions captain to pick his brain around the same time the Ireland seniors and the Ireland U20s - O'Connell is an assistant coach under Noel McNamara - trained together.

"Yeah, I've spoken to him a couple of times," he said. "We've had a few sessions with the 20s and caught up briefly.

"Hopefully, down the line, I can chat to him for a bit longer.

"He's just a wealth of knowledge and experience. Everything he says I soak it in. He's been there and done that."

The ex-St Michael's College forward has always been a natural leader, long before his role in leading Ireland to their first and only Under-20 World Cup final in 2016.

There has been many a reputation that has suffered from the step up to international level.

FOCUS: Andrew Porter
FOCUS: Andrew Porter

Everything happens a split-second faster which places a heavier stress on making quicker decisions and taking quicker action.

With the best will in the world, how do you know you are good enough?

"You probably can't really know until you get out there and go for it," he said.

All week long, Wales would have planned to split the Irish scrum, knowing it was anchored by a rookie tight-head in Andrew Porter, 22, and second row Ryan.

"It is really satisfying. There was a lot of chat about the scrum this week," he said.

"The way Porter managed himself was brilliant. I was behind him and he was like a rock all day.

"It definitely didn't get into our heads. We stayed very process-driven in terms of what we were going to do. The way we responded was brilliant."

He is able "to relate" to O'Connell's admission that he often arrived at a big match wishing it was over before it had even started. It is not something Ryan can envisage getting any easier.

"I don't think I will ever feel comfortable," he said.

"The night before the game I'm not too bad but certainly the morning of the game I'm very nervous. The game is too big not to be very nervous about it.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't. The build-up is the hardest."

He's only getting started.

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