“It hasn’t been an easy season at times – it took me a while to get my confidence back”
THERE WAS THE meteoric start to James Ryan’s career – Grand Slam, Champions Cup, a year before he tasted defeat as a pro – and then there was the dropout, which the creators of music call the second album difficult.
A series of concussions and injuries hasn’t helped while the downward trajectory of Ireland’s displays after 2018 and until November last year hasn’t done much for his self-confidence either.
Add a rejection of Warren Gatland when he named his British and Irish Lions squad for a tour of South Africa and the baton that went against Ryan when, as captain, he pointed the posts rather than the corner at a critical stage in Ireland’s defeat to France. in this year’s Six Nations, and you can get an idea of where we’re going with this quick bio.
And yet, things tend to move quickly in sport. Ryan entered this tour with doubts in some quarters over whether he would make the starting XV, but finished it with his reputation restored. In all aspects of the game, he was spectacular in the litmus test in Wellington.
“Winning this streak is definitely up there and it might be the best (in terms of career achievement),” Ryan said. “Winning a Grand Slam is so hard to do, but winning here is also very hard and what probably makes me appreciate it even more is that I had days when things just didn’t go my way. or in our direction.
“Besides, it’s been a tough year too. I’ve been in the game and out of the game, having injury setbacks and stuff like that. It hasn’t been an easy season at times, but being able to play again, be fit, get a number of games under my belt and finish the season injury free and with a win in series like this, and enjoying it with such a great group of people, it’s amazing.
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“I’m delighted, just to have an injury-free streak and an injury-free streak. There have been some tough times over the last couple of years because I’ve had setbacks in terms of injuries and things like It took me a while to regain my confidence…
“After a concussion, it takes some time to regain self-confidence and be physically ready again. But look, I feel good, I feel like I’m in a good position. I don’t want to talk about myself, but I’m so happy to be involved in such a great victory.
A big win had the potential to turn into the biggest crisis of all time. Up 22-3 at the break – the biggest half-time lead any side have ever had over the All Blacks – three early All Blacks tries closed the gap to 25-22 with just under 20 minutes to play.
“But nobody panicked,” Ryan said.
“They had a few first tries and what we said under the posts is that this is what happens at this level. You get those punches in the face and things don’t go your way and the opposition gets a purple stain. It’s just about how you react and for us it’s about winning the next moment, it’s about being a team the next moment.
“These are the situations you want to be in, you know what I mean? You want to test yourself and see where we stand.
“They got some early scores and we had to react, and I think we responded pretty well. Rob Herring obviously got that super score on the back of a maul, finished really well, and we just stood there.
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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton was quick to praise Ryan for his part in the scoring, revealing how the decision to go into the corner rather than the posts was heavily influenced by the second line.
Ryan explained: “The ride was going well. It’s just a “feel” thing really.
“Sometimes they don’t follow your path. Sometimes you think it’s the right option, they fly off and make a turnover, then you probably get a bit of flak for not taking the points. But sometimes you just have to back each other up and we thought that was the right thing at the time, and I thought Rob was so good at finishing him at the back.
Cue celebrations that lasted long into the night.
“It was almost a feeling of disbelief, not that we didn’t believe it, but it means so much to win here, and win a series here, and back up last week. I’m so happy for the group and for the team and for the support staff and management, because there’s so much that happened in there.