James Ryan will become an Ireland great, says forwards coach Simon Easterby

James Ryan’s rare mix of humility and talent marks him out as a future Ireland great, according to Simon Easterby.

Fast-rising lock Ryan faces the biggest game of his embryonic Test career on Saturday when Ireland take on Samoa bidding to secure a World Cup quarter-final spot.

The 23-year-old has Leinster team-mate Dan Leavy to thank for the tongue-in-cheek nickname of ‘Big Cheese’, but forwards coach Easterby explains that in reality Ryan is as far away as possible from any ‘Big I Am’ persona.

Wales v Ireland – International Friendly – Principality Stadium
James Ryan, top, continues to scale new heights with Ireland (Paul Harding/PA)

Ryan is already being touted as a future Ireland captain, but Easterby backed the 21-cap second row to carve out a Test career of true renown whether he leads his country or not.

“He comes across as being quite quiet but actually he’s a real student of the game,” Easterby said.

“He works incredibly hard on the physical element, but certainly the mental part of the game too. There’s no ‘Big I Am’ about him, even though his nickname would suggest otherwise.

“He’s just a guy who will continue to grow and will continue to lead, whether that’s through having a ‘C’ next to his name or just through his actions.

“He will become one of the greats, I’ve no doubts about that.”

Ireland v Italy – Guinness Summer Series – Aviva Stadium
Simon Easterby, pictured, believes Ryan can be one of Ireland’s best ever players (Donall Farmer/PA)

Ryan made his Test debut even before his senior bow with Leinster, such was Ireland’s faith in their fast-maturing lock.

The sharp-witted youngster came off the bench in Ireland’s 55-19 win over the United States in Harrison on June 10, 2017, and has stormed from strength to strength ever since.

“He’s come through the ranks, hasn’t he? We plucked him, I don’t think he’d even played a senior game for Leinster when we took him to the States to make his debut,” Easterby said.

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“Maybe there were a few eyebrows raised at that. But he hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s certainly on the right track currently. He works incredibly hard.

“And that I guess is the baseline for any great player: that they have the raw talent and the ability but that they also work incredibly hard. And he has all three.”

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