After making his first senior international start at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, James Ryan acknowledged that Ireland were made to work hard for their 28-19 GUINNESS Series victory over Argentina.
Following his late cameo against South Africa at the same venue a fortnight ago, in addition to replacement appearances against the USA and Japan in June, James Ryan was picked alongside Ulster’s Iain Henderson in the Irish second row.
The hosts led 20-0 when he was replaced by his Leinster team-mate Devin Toner in the 49th-minute, and although Ryan admitted that they offered the Pumas a way back into the contest, he was pleased that Joe Schmidt’s managed to maintain their 100% winning record in the GUINNESS Series.
“It was a hard-fought win. They’re a very physical side, as they always are. We had to work very hard to get a result there, but to make it three from three now is a pretty good outcome,” admitted the promising 21-year-old afterwards.
“I think it was important that we kind of kept our foot on the throat a bit. I think maybe we let it slip a bit (in the second half). That was slightly disappointing, but all in all, I think we’re happy enough.”
After overcoming a troublesome hamstring injury, Ryan has made significant progress in the latter half of 2017. His Ireland debut famously arrived before his maiden Leinster cap, but with five outings in blue now under his belt, it is expected that he will push hard for a Six Nations spot in the spring.
As he reflected on how his third and fourth Tests compared to his earlier experiences in the green jersey, Ryan felt the pace of Saturday’s match was similar to Ireland’s summer tour meetings with the US and Japan, but viewed the challenge of both South Africa and Argentina as more of a physical obstacle.
“I think the pace was pretty similar, especially the Japanese game. They like to really play. Pace-wise that was tough, but I think South Africa and Argentina are just bigger teams. From a physical point of view, they really like to go after you. That’s kind of the main difference.
“It’s a step up. It’s more the physicality than anything else. They’re big guys. They’re a different outfit than the US, and they certainly come flying in. They’re big men, you just have to take a look at them. From a physical point of view, it was a step up, but I think we were well able to take them on there.”
Since captaining the Ireland Under-20s to the final of the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship, Ryan has been earmarked as a player of real potential. He was joined on that team by Saturday’s man of the match, two-try winger Jacob Stockdale, and having first played alongside the Ulsterman on an Ireland U-18 Schools team, the 6ft 7in lock always knew Stockdale had the qualities needed to be a top class international back.
“We played in Poland, I think that was the first time. Under-18 Schools. FIRA, which was the U-18 European Championship. He always stood out, in fairness. He’s just a big winger who has got great feet. He’s fast, so he’s got all the attributes you look for really.”
There were plenty of positives for Ireland head coach Schmidt to take from the defeat of the Pumas, and the willingness of his players to offload the ball and create attacking opportunities saw them wear down the visitors’ defence, particularly in a fast-paced first half.
Ryan agreed that they had some encouraging moments in possession, and were trying to play the game on their terms. “Absolutely. We’re always trying to play what’s in front of us, and if it’s on to play, then definitely that’s what we look to do,” he added. “Today was good, we got some good go-forward. Some good offloads, so yeah that was great.”