18 August 2023

James Ryan says Ireland’s clash with England ‘has never been a warm-up game’

18 August 2023

Captain James Ryan admits there is nervousness among Ireland’s returning stars as they bid to generate World Cup momentum by producing a statement display against England.

The bulk of Andy Farrell’s first-choice players are poised for their first Test appearances since clinching a Six Nations Grand Slam against Steve Borthwick’s side in March.

Head coach Farrell has changed his full starting XV for Saturday’s clash after an experimental side stuttered past Italy a fortnight ago to give his main men much-needed action ahead of the upcoming tournament in France.

Leinster lock Ryan, who will skipper his country in the absence of the suspended Johnny Sexton, insists the contest is far from a warm-up match and feels the world’s top-ranked nation must “bring our A-game”.

“I think there’s a bit of nerves heading into this game,” said the 27-year-old.

“It’s the first game for a lot of us of this summer and playing England at home, there’s always a little bit of pressure.

“Lads are keen to make a statement with selection and everything coming up.

“This has never been a warm-up game for us. It’s been very much a Test match, that’s the way we’ve prepared for this game all week.

“It’s obviously a lot of the guys’ first appearance of the summer, so it’s going to be tough but we’re not going to make any excuses.

“We need to make sure that we take a step forward for the group and we put in a performance that will give us confidence with the World Cup coming around the corner quickly. We’ll definitely need to bring our A-game.”

Ryan watched from the sidelines as Ireland overcame Italy 33-17 on August 5.

Farrell described that disjointed display as a “bit clunky” before taking his squad away to Portugal for a week-long training camp.

Ryan believes the Englishman is striking the right balance between hard work and ensuring players “aren’t burning out”.

“He is able to create that environment where people are really switched on but we also get windows where we can relax and chill out for a bit as well,” he said.

“That’s going to be huge coming into France as well, spending a lot of time together, a lot more hopefully than we even would on a summer tour.

“Making sure lads aren’t burning out by being too on all the time is going to be important.”

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