All smiles, but with ‘no flashy stuff’,Ryan set for show­down

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - GAVIN CUMMISKEY in Bil­bao, Spain

In­cred­i­ble just about cov­ers the jour­ney so far.

At least Don­nacha Ryan won’t know the Le­in­ster calls. In Bordeaux he stood wait­ing for CJ Stander to bar­rel through the mid­dle of the li­ne­out. The Tip­per­ary hurler buried his for­mer team­mate to deny Mun­ster a clean route to the semi-fi­nal.

Now look at him, gig­gling away on the top ta­ble along­side Rac­ing 92 coach Lau­rent Travers and cap­tain Yan­nick Nyanga, per­haps pinch­ing him­self.

“It’s been dif­fer­ent al­right, I wouldn’t like that level of scru­tiny,” he says about all the fuss. “It’s im­por­tant that I bring the in­ten­sity, which is the eas­i­est part of be­ing a rugby player – you love play­ing. As a job it is fan­tas­tic.”

The in­creased salary helps, but this evening’s game is why he em­i­grated. His re­ward is de­served af­ter all the foot prob­lems and wait­ing, for far too long, be­hind the O’Con­nell and O’Cal­laghan wall.

“He brings a very high level, this Bri­tish ex­pe­ri­ence, or Ir­ish ex­pe­ri­ence, with a lot of in­ten­sity and pre­ci­sion,” goes Travers be­fore apol­o­gis­ing for the slip of the tongue.

The Éire Óg slio­tar, prob­a­bly hid­den in his pocket, should re­mind them where he hails from, but he does not care. He can’t stop smil­ing. A jour­nal­ist won­ders what is his pri­mary duty in Paris. “Def­i­nitely my foot­balling skills, my of­fload­ing...” Still grin­ning from ear to ear. “Ah no pre­dom­i­nantly it is tack­ling and ruck­ing. I don’t re­ally get to do the flashy stuff. I’ll leave the off­loads to Leone (Nakarawa).”

Ryan’s gi­ant Fi­jian lock­ing part­ner walks bare-chested around the chang­ing room with his Olympic gold from Rio on show. “He greets you ev­ery morn­ing with a big hug which is very un­usual but it’s ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble, puts a smile on your face . . . Then you see how hard they train. It gives me con­fir­ma­tion of how hard you have to work to get up to their level.

“Un­for­tu­nately I don’t have oc­to­pus hands to get those off­loads away. He’s ex­cit­ing to play along­side. It’s a dif­fer­ent sec­ond row part­ner than what I had but one that I am en­joy­ing a lot.”

Dou­ble act

Bil­bao of­fers a slid­ing door mo­ment. What if he stayed home and struck up a dou­ble act with James Ryan? Could still hap­pen. What if he’s so out­stand­ing on this stage that Joe Sch­midt bends the for­eign club rule to bring a 35-year-old Mun­ster dog to Ja­pan next year? If only.

“James has had an in­cred­i­ble sea­son. I had the op­por­tu­nity to play against him in a de­vel­op­ment game about two years ago.”

In May 2016, be­fore Ryan led the un­der-20s to a World Cup fi­nal, the Ryans mixed it down in Thomond Park as Don­nacha needed some flog­ging af­ter con­cus­sion. “The Mun­ster boys were telling me dur­ing the Six Na­tions that his GPS scores were in­cred­i­ble. He’s play­ing along­side the most suc­cess­ful Ir­ish sec­ondrow...” What, Paulie? “...Devin has won ev­ery­thing so far.” Of course.

The in­cred­i­ble is promised from at least one Ryan.

Don­nacha Ryan: ‘I wouldn’t like that level of scru­tiny’

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