Ryan nod just reward for contribution to Six Nations success
Joey Carbery was understandably grabbing the headlines emanating out of Brisbane yesterday as Joe Schmidt's out-half call made waves across the rugby world, but there are other interesting elements to the coach's selection.
The decision to rest Tadhg Furlong hasn't caused as much of a stir, but in picking John Ryan ahead of Andrew Porter for the opening Test, the coach has shown faith in a player who might have lost confidence during a difficult season.
At Munster, Ryan has found himself largely playing second-fiddle to Stephen Archer, while for Ireland he fell behind the dynamic figure of Porter in the pecking order as the Six Nations went on.
Yet he remained involved in squads and was brought to Twickenham as a travelling reserve.
When the final whistle went, he was as happy as any of the starting players as he felt he had contributed fully to the preparations and played his part in the opening two games.
"I definitely felt a part of it," he recalled.
"How many players have won a Grand Slam in the country? To be part of two pretty important games... and everyone wants to be on the pitch in Twickenham and wants to be involved. Obviously I was over there, but in the capacity of being a reserve, but I felt just as much a part of it.
"I was lucky enough. A lot of the boys who were selected, who actually played, weren't over there in Twickenham, it was great to be there.
"Everyone felt a part of it, it was a big effort from the whole squad and we weren't kicking the c**p out of each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays just to be the bibs. We felt a real part of it."
Although previous Ireland teams may have had a divide between those picked for the weekend and the rest, Ryan says Schmidt's set-up is inclusive.
"I know it is such a minor role, and you are not going to get any pats on the back from your coach or your team-mates," he said.
"Even today's training shouldn't have been at the intensity it was but, knowing that it is Australia ahead of us, there was a serious intensity to it.
"There is always a slight aggression and it is down to the selection, and there is a bit of bite there because there are some lads that want to be in. We are working in an era now where it is not the same XV every week.
"There are changes and serious competition around the place, and in my personal experience, there are three hoping to get into this squad and we are all looking to get in, and that one fella who is left out in the cold gets it really tough.
"So next week, it could be me, it is all about competition."
Although he fell out of favour with Munster and Ireland, Ryan never lost faith in his ability to get back to this stage.
"I tore my calf and that was a disaster. I haven't had big games, even at club level this year, so it is great to have a vote of confidence from the coaches," he said.
"I knew I had the same ability because I was still doing the work, the same work in the scrum.
"When he (Archer) was ahead of me, it was because they preferred him and that was it. I got on with it."
Ryan says the increased competition is driving the performance levels.
"You just have to have your head on, on the day, because there is that fella behind you who has a target on your back."