Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

James Ryan issues warning to Leinster despite 25-game winning streak

(Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside via Getty Images)

James Ryan has told his Leinster teammates only their best will do against a potentially galvanised Saracens in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday. The clash is a repeat of last year’s final in Newcastle, but the circumstances are very different for the holders after a dreadful campaign.


Saracens were hit with a £5.36million fine and 35-point deduction in November for repeated salary cap breaches before they were automatically relegated in January. It means all Mark McCall’s side have had to play for is the Champions Cup and even though they will be without the suspended captain Owen Farrell in Dublin, Leinster’s lock is not about to take anything for granted.

“They are the defending champions for a reason, so we know this week we have to bring the best version of ourselves and I don’t think anything less will be enough to get a result,” Ryan said. “They have had some blows in the past and you have seen it has brought them closer. If anything, it could galvanise them as a group.

Video Spacer

Ireland 7s player and Love Island contestant Greg O’Shea guests on All Access, the Rugby Pass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

Video Spacer

Ireland 7s player and Love Island contestant Greg O’Shea guests on All Access, the Rugby Pass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

“They have targeted this game, I would imagine, from a long way back and because of the relegation, they have had months to fine-tune and plan for this game. It’s their last chance of silverware this season, so they have a huge amount to play for and they will be a very motivated outfit.”

Since Leinster’s 20-10 defeat to Saracens in May last year, the Irish club have put together a run of 25 wins in a row. The latest occurred on Saturday in the Guinness PRO14 final against Ulster, to crown them the champions of the competition for a third consecutive year.

It was Ryan’s first game back after a shoulder injury and while happy to get his hands on more silverware, he knows where they can improve. “The last few weeks have been positive,” the 26-cap Ireland international added. “Looking at the weekend, it was a slow start but we got into the game. This week we can’t afford to start slow, we have to come out the blocks quick so we will need to improve – but we are all aware of that.”

Saturday will see Ryan renew his duel with England’s Maro Itoje with the pair going head-to-head several times over the last few years. The most recent was back in February during the Six Nations, but the Leinster forward was keen not to only focus on his rival, who he described as the “overall package”.


Ryan said: “It’s great. You look across the Saracens pack and they have some serious players there, whether it be Itoje or the Vunipolas (Mako and Billy). You look at the backline and yes they won’t have Owen Farrell, but they still have a huge amount of experience.

“Manu Vunipola has gone in there at ten and done a good job so across the park they are stacked with quality. They might have lost a few guys but they have the backbone of the team committed to the club and it is great to be coming up against some of the best players in Europe. We are massively looking forward to it.”

While Farrell will not be influential on the pitch, due to being issued with a five-match ban for a dangerous tackle against Wasps earlier this month, the fly-half has still been eager to play his part. Saracens director of rugby McCall revealed: “He’s running the opposition against us, running some of Leinster’s plays etc, so he’ll be a huge help to us this week.

“He just wants to help. He regrets the situation he finds himself in but now he just wants to help the team as much as he can.” On Ryan, McCall added: “He epitomises the hard working team they are. That’s his number one strength.”



Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

12 Go to comments
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
FEATURE Long overdue for Wales to look at high-flying Osprey Morgan Morris Long overdue for Wales to look at high-flying Osprey Morgan Morris