Ireland skipper makes desperate plea
NATIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Stand-in Ireland captain James Ryan has pleaded with his country’s rugby fans to be patient after disappointing defeats to France and England.
The 24-year-old second-row will lead his side for the second successive Test when they host Georgia in their final Nations Cup pool match on Sunday, in the absence of the injured Johnny Sexton.
Ryan’s first outing as skipper resulted in a 7-18 defeat by England last week after a 32-9 win against Wales in Dublin in their tournament opener.
Ireland last month lost 27-35 in Paris in their final Six Nations match, dashing their hopes of the title.
Supporters were hoping for a revival under head coach Andy Farrell after a disappointing end to the successful tenure of Joe Schmidt.
But Ryan said he had seen enough signs his outfit would be title challengers in the next Six Nations, scheduled to take place early next year.
“We are a relatively inexperienced side compared to those guys in the England side who have been together for a long time on the whole,” he said.
“I thought the lads fronted up defensively and kept working hard for each other and our physicality was impressive.
“We can take a lot from that and just be a bit smarter in our next match – make sure in our next two games we finish on a high note and take that into the Six Nations.”
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Ryan, who has been considered a potential long-term captain since skippering the Under-20 side to the 2016 world championship final, said he felt Ireland had been their own worst enemy.
“I do not know if I can put a percentage on the difference between where we are and England and France are at the moment,” he said.
“If you stand back and look at the game, we gave them [England] most of their points, though Jonny May did unbelievably to finish his try [started in the England 22].
“If you look, they defended unbelievably well so I don’t think we are very far away from a couple of the world’s top teams.”
Ryan said Ireland would need to tighten up, even though the Lelos have yet to register a point in their two games so far in the Nations Cup, against England and Wales.
“We need to fix the set piece, which is so important at this level,” he said.
“A bit more variety in our play at times would be good and that we are calmer when we get into the 22 and see the bigger picture.”