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‘Boks Test Is Right Up Ryan’s Street

‘Boks Test Is Right Up Ryan’s Street

Battle-hardened by a run of appearances in the green jersey, Donnacha Ryan is planning to make it ‘as tough a day as possible’ for South Africa on Saturday evening.

Donnacha Ryan has played every minute of Ireland’s last five internationals, including the three bruising summer Tests against the All Blacks.

In New Zealand, he combined with Dan Tuohy for each of the matches, while against Scotland and England – at the tail end of the Six Nations – he had his Munster colleague Donncha O’Callaghan for company in the second row.

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With Paul O’Connell now sidelined with a back injury, the Nenagh man is set to assume more responsibility in the set piece and the loose this weekend.

Looking forward to facing the Springboks for the second time in his career, Ryan said: “South Africa are a top class side. If you look at their games, the scrum is a massive platform for them as is their maul.

“They’re lethal off that and they get a lot of penalties. We have to try and nullify that and make it as tough a day as possible for them.”

Last season’s Munster Player of the Year is confident that ‘plenty of guys will step up to the plate’ in the absence of pack leaders like O’Connell and fellow injury victim Rory Best.

Ryan’s own versatility means that he could be deployed in the back row against the ‘Boks, given the absence of the sidelined Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris.

Asked about covering the two positions, he admitted: “I was worried there a while back – sort of considered a jack of all trades – but you take it as a compliment really that you can be thrown around like that.

“I’d have no problem fitting in with the team and if it helps, well and good.”

Should he line out in the second row on Ireland’s return to the Aviva Stadium, he will come up against highly rated 21-year-old Eben Etzebeth.

The 6ft 8in, 19 and-a-half stone second row is an abrasive figure who made five starts for South Africa during the recent Rugby Championship.

Having viewed clips of the Stormers forward in action, Ryan offered his verdict: “He’s a very big guy, very aggressive, very powerful with ball in hand and explosive in the lineout where he is also very clever.

“He is certainly one to be looking out for. We have to keep a good eye on him at the weekend as their pack will be looking to give him a platform. We have to, from 1 to 8, bring our best game.”

Ryan experienced every up and down of Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand, coming so close to an historic result against the world’s best side and then ending the Series with a record defeat.

The 28-year-old is confident that this Irish squad will use that experience to good effect in the coming weeks, as they seek to bounce back against two of the Kiwis’ Rugby Championship rivals.

“One game can make or break you. The last game we played in New Zealand – there’s no two ways about it that the week before we all thought we could have made it.

“After that we were broken men for four weeks. There was a lot of hurt there and you bring it with you.

“If you are not clever enough to learn from those experiences, you’d be a very foolish rugby player.”