Rhysv Ruddock shining at Leinster
Published 08/01/2014 | 01:30
Perhaps it is the curse of being capped at just 19 in 2010, but Rhys Ruddock appears to have been stuck in the waiting room for quite some time.
The queue for a place in the Leinster back-row has never known such jostling, and this season Ruddock has finally got his elbows out and made it to the front of the line.
Still just 23, the blindside has been able to make the No 6 jersey his own since November, starting the last seven games.
During that time he has never packed down alongside the same two back-row colleagues, with Matt O'Connor using six other different starters as he rotated throughout the period.
The established core of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin have never been pushed as hard by the next generation of Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and Dominic Ryan who, in turn, know that young guns like Dan Leavy, Conor Gilsenan and Jack Conan won't be long in getting involved in the race.
The most notable absentee in recent weeks has been McLaughlin, who is primed to replace Ruddock against Castres if the latter's calf strain doesn't clear up and, having played seven in succession, perhaps it is time for a break given the five-day turnaround between Sunday's game and the pool decider against the Ospreys.
"It's been really good. I have been enjoying the season. I thought I always got a fair opportunity and this year I have just managed to be a bit more consistent. I have been lucky enough to get a few more games," he said.
"I've had plenty of game time and I've been happy with the way things have been going," said Dublin-born Ruddock, son of former Wales coach Mike.
"Most of the opportunities have been at No 6, but if you have Seanie and Jordi playing a number of positions it's a good sign, especially when you get an injury to someone like Sean. That's a massive blow, but you have guys like Shane Jennings, Dominic Ryan and Jordi as guys who can play No 7 and are stepping up."