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'He Was Always A Player That Stood Out Very Clearly From An Early Age'

'He Was Always A Player That Stood Out Very Clearly From An Early Age'
By PJ Browne

James Ryan says Leinster teammate and fellow second row Ryan Baird has "fitted in seamlessly" with Ireland.

Baird made his Ireland senior debut off the bench in last month's victory against Italy.

"He looks so powerful whenever he carries the ball," said Ryan.

"He moved to Michael's in third year, I think. I was in sixth year when he first came to the school. I would have seen him growing up. He was always one of those players that stood out very clearly, even from an early age. He's continued in that manner. He's unbelievably athletic, so quick and powerful. The second row is an area with a lot of depth now.

"I have a great relationship with [Iain Henderson]. I get a long with Hendy as well as anyone in here. We're good mates, first and foremost. We're both quite curious about stuff. We definitely have a similar sense of humour, similar interests as well - we both love food, dogs, he likes a bit of history as well.

"I really enjoy playing with him. He's a really smart player. He brings real leadership. He's a very good lineout operator. When he's at his best, he's such a destructive force. You love playing with someone like that alongside you in the second row. It's a privilege to play with him when I get the chance."

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The introduction of Paul O'Connell as Ireland forwards coach has seen the lineout operate far smoother than it did during the autumn.

"It has improved in this campaign really, which has been great," said Ryan.

"I wouldn’t say there has been a massive change to the nuts and bolts of our line-out.

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"I think what Paul has introduced is little small intricacies and just levels of detail that really make a difference at this level, which has been great because I think the set-piece has been an area of our game that’s been a real positive for us so far in this campaign between our scrum and line-out. We know how important that is at this level.

"So that’s definitely been one real positive we’re taking. It’s an area that we felt, looking back in the autumn, that could have been a bit stronger. So we’re in a good place with that now."

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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