Leinster beware of the “octopus hands” that are hoping to wreck your march to a fourth Champions Cup title.
Former Munster second row Donnacha Ryan gave fans of the Irish club reasons to be fearful – his second row partner Leone Nakarawa.
Ryan opened up to RugbyPass about the friendly Fijian, who has been in barnstorming form in this season’s competition, playing every minute.
“He’ll greet you every morning with a big hug, which is very unusual but is absolutely incredible, he’d put a smile on your face.”
“You see these guys and how talented they are and (wonder) what is their work ethic and you see them train and how hard they train, like Leone and Yannick (Nyanga). You see how hard they train, and that does give you that confirmation in your head that it does take hard work to get to the level that these guys are and Leone does work really hard.”
He tops the Champions Cup offloading charts with 20, and it’s something that has massively impressed Ryan
“It is great with GPS in the club that you are able to give yourself that barometer alongside him, that you are able to challenge yourself alongside him every day. Unfortunately I don’t have octopus hands, that he is able to do fastastic offloads!”
“He’s exciting to play alongside, very, very positive, always trying to do something new. It’s different second row partner to what I’ve had but something I’m enjoying it a lot.”
“I love to get challenged everyday so I’m coming into work skipping going in every day. I leave Leone to do the off-loading stuff.
And Ryan quipped that the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in Seven’s likes to show off his prize.
“Sometimes he does like to walk into the changing room with his top off and with his Olympic gold medal on his chest!”
He’s the sole forward in the top-five in terms of defenders beaten, joint-fourth on 22 alongside his Racing 92 teammate Teddy Thomas and 2018 Natwest 6 Nations top try scorer Jacob Stockdale. Only Nakarawa’s fellow countrymen Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova, along with the Ospreys’ Owen Watkin are ahead of him.
Donnacha Ryan is also an admirer of current Ireland second James Ryan, who has been a standout player for club and country this season.
“James has been incredible actually. I had the opportunity to play against him in a development game two years ago. He’s had an incredible season.”
“I was getting feedback from the Munster lads during the 6 Nations and his GPS scores were incredible, he has such a high work rate.”
Ryan is predicting a titanic battle at the lineout between the sides when the meet in Bilbao on Saturday.
“He’s playing alongside the most successful Irish second row – Devin (Toner) has done everything, and the Leinster lineout has done very well this year.”
“I also played alongside Leo (Cullen) and I know he’s very diligent and it’s important how we react to those things on the pitch and how we can close them down the best we can.”
“Knowing Leinster and way Stuart (Lancaster) likes to train them, Leinster will play a high tempo game and that’s the kind of game we play as well. It makes for an interesting clash, the lineout will be a game of chase and some days you’re able to pinch one or two, others you can’t.”
Leinster go into the match as favourites and are seeking to become just the second side, after Saracens in 2016, to win all nine of their Champions Cup matches.
“It’s always difficult playing against Leinster. Usually we play Leinster in wetter conditions. It’s going to be hot in Bilbao, basically playing Ireland team Grand slam winning team,
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