Rugby World Cup 2011

Ryan's home away from home

2011-09-29 12:19
Donnacha Ryan (File)

Dunedin - Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan is savouring the experience of being at a Rugby World Cup and the special support that comes from close family as well as his country's passionate fans.

The 27-year-old Munster forward, often back-up to Ireland's second row duo of provincial team-mates Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan, started last weekend's 62-12 Pool C rout of Russia in Rotorua.

And it was an emotional match for Ryan in more ways than one.

"It was great against Russia," Ryan told reporters at Ireland's hotel here on Wednesday.

"I haven't been nervous about a game for a long, long time.

"Beforehand, I was a bit overwhelmed about what was happening. I saw my parents in the crowd and there was emotion in their faces. It's great having them around although my mum's gone home now due to budgetary constraints.

"I tried to run myself into the ground and give a good account of myself.

If what happened to Ryan before and during the game made a great impression on the Ireland forward, so too did events after the final whistle.

"We went after the Russia match to meet some of the supporters," recalled Ryan.

"To see people playing piano in the street and singing songs from home, was amazing to see. It's great to feed off that goodwill that people have.

"I was in a pub for an hour - no more! - and it was as if they'd uprooted a pub from Dublin and brought it here.

"The bar ran out of drink, I had nothing to do with that!," Ryan insisted.

"They didn't cater for the amount the Irish lads would drink."

Players during a World Cup have plenty of 'down time' and Ryan said one off-field lesson had been he was no great gambler.

"We have the casino here at the team hotel, which has been bit of a distraction for a few of the lads.

"I'm a guilty party, unfortunately. I've tried a few slot machines. Sadly, the only machine I'm winning out of is the ATM machine.

"I don't want to be naming and shaming on the big winners! A hundred (NZ) dollars and I'm out, I know my limits.

"We were playing Blackjack. When you watch films like 'The Hangover' and '21', you think you can 'count cards', but it doesn't happen. I know there are 52 cards in a deck!"

Ireland face Italy in a make-or-break Pool clash in Dunedin on Sunday, with the winners going through to the quarter-finals and the losers bowing out of the tournament.

Italy coach Nick Mallett insisted after his side's 27-10 victory over the United States on Tuesday: "We know perfectly well we have a better front row than Ireland and we're hoping to prove that on Sunday.

"If our front row put us on the front foot, we can win the game," the former Springbok boss added.

Ryan said he had no problems with Mallett's words but admitted he would be uncomfortable if Ireland coach Declan Kidney chose to 'talk up' his players in similar fashion ahead of an important match.

"Nick is showing a lot of confidence on his players and rightly so but we've a lot of confidence in our own front row, they're doing very well for us.

"Compliments don't sit well with me. I like to look at the improvements I can make.

"You can never get too high or too low in the game. You'd become a manic-depressive if you did."


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