James Lowe has paid tribute to Leinster teammate James Ryan, who will lead Ireland out at Twickenham as a first-time 24-year-old captain after skipper Johnny Sexton was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Ryan has been viewed by many as his country’s long-term captain-in-waiting after Andy Farrell decided at the start of tenure in early 2020 to give the responsibility to Sexton in the wake of Rory Best’s post-World Cup retirement.

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With Sexton having lasted just 29 minutes last Friday’s opening round Nations Cup win over Wales, Ryan stepped up to lead the team for the remaining 51 minutes and he now keeps the responsibility for Saturday’s Group A clash in London.     

“The other night when I was sitting in my bedroom having a cup of tea, he’s walking around, he’s knocking on people’s doors making sure that everything is sorted, everyone knew what they needed to do,” Lowe said of new Ireland skipper Ryan.

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Billy Burns insists there are no split loyalties as Ireland prepare to face England

“Earlier on (in his career) he would lead by example but now he’s grown into himself, he’s some leader, he’s ridiculously mature. He’s such a calm head. The fact that he’s only just got his driver’s licence baffles me because he’s so mature on the rugby field. Don’t tell him this but he’s a pretty unique man.”

Ryan described the captaincy as a huge honour but he won’t allow himself to get sidetracked by responsibility. “It’s a huge honour for me, so looking forward to it,” he said. “Probably the great thing about it is, I won’t be on my own – there are guys like Peter O’Mahony there, Iain (Henderson), Keith (Earls), a huge amount of experience.

“To be honest, it’s the same for me this week as it is every week. I have got to do my job really effectively, play well, not get sidetracked with all of the captaincy stuff because I’m going to need to get my performance right, just like everybody else.”

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Lowe added that just because Sexton is injured won’t mean he doesn’t have an influence on Ireland’s preparations. “He didn’t die, he’s still in the building. He’s still going to be barking at us all week as he always does.

“He’s so emotional about this team. Every time he talks about Ireland or when he’s disappointed about himself, he gets so emotional but that’s because he cares so much. Trust me, he will be everywhere this week to make sure we all know our stuff. I will definitely be in his ear trying to get a few nuggets of gold.”

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