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Monday 22 October 2018

'Silver lining' of first loss has Ryan focused on future

Guinness PRO14, Leinster v Munster, Live eir Sport (KO 6.0)

James Ryan during training this week
James Ryan during training this week

Everyone's '0' has to go at some stage.

Ireland's first test defeat to Australia had a "silver lining" James Ryan could not see until the near-perfect season was over.

It finally brought an end to the legend of the unbeatable second row; that gnawing, nagging record that was impossible to maintain.

"It was probably the one silver lining so that all that malarkey would stop," he said during the week.

"That was the only thing really. It's nice to have that thing behind me."

Nice enough that Ryan can get back to being one of the Leinster lads as just a winner who sometimes has to lose.

Not so fast there my friend. The 22-year-old phenom is still unbeaten in Blue.

That's right. He has yet to know the pain of losing in his 17 appearances for the province.

His face momentarily dropped when this was brought up at the tail-end of an interview to acknowledge a new partnership between the Rugby Players of Ireland and Goodbody's Stockbrokers.

The expression appeared to say, 'oh no, not this again'.

Ryan could never grow weary of the rivalry he was brought up on, that of Munster and Leinster.

"Ah yeah, I went to most of them," he said of the inter-pro derbies in the past.

"The one that stands out to me was Leinster-Munster in Croke Park in 2009.

"It was probably one of my favourite games as a kid growing up."

This will be Ryan's first taste of the Red and Blue rivalry at the Aviva.

The natural leader has already banked the memory of playing in Leinster's 34-24 defeat of Munster in Limerick on St Stephen's Day last season.

"My first inter-pro here was in Thomond Park. It was class. It's always a good game," he said.

There is the historical story and, then, there is the personal story and the personal duel that comes with the territory of holding a shirt someone else wants badly, very badly.

The rise of Ryan has come in tandem with the renaissance of Tadhg Beirne for Scarlets and, now, for Munster.

"I know him pretty well now, just from national camp and we toured Australia together. He's a quality operator and a good guy," said Ryan.

"Whether they play him in the second-row or back-row this weekend we'll wait and see.

"Obviously, he's so good over the ball."

There may even be enough room for Ryan and Beirne in Ireland's second row.

It is occasions like this that reveal all.

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