James Ryan's place in the Ireland team for Saturday's game against Japan came as a bit of a surprise, given his omission from the Lions squad after Alun Wyn Jones' injury in the opening game of the tour.
Coach Warren Gatland chose to call up Adam Beard instead of Ryan to replace the injured Jones, with Ryan's absence put down to an injury sustained during Irish training last week. Given that reasoning, his place in Ireland's starting XV for the game against Japan raised a few eyebrows.
📋 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗔𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 🟢
Here it is! Andy Farrell has named his Ireland Match Day 23 for Saturday's #VodafoneSummerSeries opener against Japan at @avivastadium 🙌
Full details: https://t.co/4sWQOg3XBI#ShoulderToShoulder #IrishRugby #IREvJPN pic.twitter.com/j4nvfz8Zfi
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) July 1, 2021
However, Irish head coach Andy Farrell has explained the injury situation surrounding Ryan. He clarified that Ryan has recovered from his strain earlier than expected, and that's the reason he is playing with Ireland this weekend.
Myself and Warren have communicated quite a lot and I know that Warren really rates James, but the injury was a little bit of a setback towards the end of last week and we didn’t quite know where he was up to with that and then the medics took over.
I think James in the last day or so in particular has surprised everyone with the speed of his recovery.
Farrell went on to answer questions on his communication with Lions head coach Gatland. He said that he was unsure whether Ryan's injury had played a part in his omission, but that he had indeed notified Gatland of the Leinster second row's injury situation.
Well, I informed him that there was something going on and the medics took over from there.
I don’t know whether that would have been the case or not, but there’s obviously conversations that have to happen before decisions like that are made.
Farrell will be without seven first-choice players for the two summer internationals against Japan and the USA, with new tour captain Conor Murray leading seven Irish representatives on the Lions' tour of South Africa.
Meet our new #LionsRugby 2021 Captain - Conor Murray 🦁
Not the way he would have wanted to become Captain but congratulations to the three time Lions Tourist 💪
A proven talent and an excellent leader 🙌 pic.twitter.com/mxtyHOjUj9
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 26, 2021
Farrell would surely have been delighted to have Murray on hand for the test series, but he nonetheless expressed his happiness for the Munster scrum-half on the honour of captaining the Lions.
There’s no better man. You can see within the dynamics of the Jersey camp of how Conor would be at the forefront just because of his personality. He attracts people around him, not because he’s loud and boisterous, just because he’s a good bloke and the experience that he’s got from the last few tours and the experience of the ups and downs that he’s had throughout his career will stand him in great stead. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job and we’re all delighted for him here.
Despite the Lions-enforced absences, Farrell has a strong side lining out on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium, with Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale, and Peter O'Mahony among the starters.
Irish fans will be disappointed that James Ryan is not travelling to South Africa with the Lions, but Andy Farrell will surely be quietly happy that the Leinster lock is on hand for Ireland's two summer tests in Dublin.