Man of the match Ryan does his talking on the pitch
Man of the match Ryan does his talking on the pitch

Man of the match Ryan does his talking on the pitch

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

IN AND OUT in three minutes, James Ryan does most of his talking on the pitch. But when you do what he does, the irrepressible Ireland lock can say as little or as much as he pleases.

Ryan knows no other way to play, whether it’s in green or blue, but to operate at full-tilt, producing utterly relentless shifts from start to finish and it was certainly no different here. Immense, colossal, world-class, the man of the match.

Ryan was at his brilliant best against France. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Every facet of the 22-year-old’s game was exceptional. A mountain of ruck hits, accurate lineout and maul work, 13 tackles, 19 penetrative carries and a tireless work-rate which saw him empty the tank for 80 minutes at the Aviva Stadium.  

Ireland’s forwards got through huge work in the trenches and at the set-piece to ensure the halfbacks, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, had the time and service to dictate proceedings, Joe Schmidt’s side exerting their dominance against an abject French showing. 

Rory Best’s third-minute try set the tone for the afternoon, the Ireland captain barging through the tackle of Antoine Dupont and over the line with the assistance of Ryan, who resumed his second row partnership with the excellent Iain Henderson. 

With the Ulster man back calling the lineout, Ireland won 18 of their 19 throws, and both Ryan and Henderson produced big defensive moments at different stages in the first half; the former smashing into Dupont in the French in-goal area and the latter stripping Demba Bamba of the ball in the build-up to Jack Conan’s try.

“The lineout went well, Hendy did a great job calling and our process and fundamentals were all there so we’re happy with that,” Ryan said post-match.

“We loved it, it was great to be back at home, obviously we were on the road for a bit. The support was great and it was great to be back in the Aviva.”

On Best’s try, the Leinster lock added: “We spoke this week about being Besty’s last home game in the Six Nations so I think you could see out there what that meant to him, so it was great.”

Through the diligence and accuracy of their forwards, Ireland mastered the basics and it told as they returned to a level of performance they can be happy with after the frustrations of the opening three rounds. The concession of two late tries irked Schmidt, but that will focus minds again going to Cardiff next week.

With CJ Stander carrying relentlessly, Johnny Sexton pulling the strings, Garry Ringrose a class above in midfield and Ryan at his rampaging best, this was much more like it from Ireland. Normal service had resumed.

“We are pretty happy with that and we showed real good intent from early on in the game but perhaps we took our foot off the gas a little in the second half,” Ryan continued.

The Leinster second row was MOTM on Sunday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It is great playing here at home and it is a good win at the end of the day but I think we can do better. We really got stuck in and went after them today.”

It was just the sixth time Ryan and Henderson had started together, and first since Argentina back in November, but their work in tandem — Ryan’s all-round game and abrasive force complemented by Henderson’s set-piece acumen and breakdown ability — was a joy to watch, the pair becoming the dominant partnership they’ve always promised to be. 

They, along with Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Peter O’Mahony, Stander and Conan, provided the impetus for Ireland’s quick and go-forward ball, the platform upon which this 26-14 victory was built. At last, some much-needed momentum heading to Cardiff.

“Recovery is massive for us with the six-day turnaround,” Ryan added. “There’s plenty of guys in the ice bath already and I think the next 24 hours are really important in that regards.

“From there we’ll hit the ground running on Tuesday and work on a few things that we could have been better at there and hopefully bring that to Cardiff.  

“They [Wales] are a quality outfit. They’ve really shown that so far in the championship they’ll be all guns blazing next week. 

“You only have to watch Wales when they are singing the national anthem in the Millennium Stadium how much it means to them. They’ll definitely be raring to go.”

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