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Humbling defeat will only serve to make me stronger, says Ryan

Scotland v Ireland, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Murrayfield Stadium, Saturday, 2.15pm

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

James Ryan was always one to play down his stunning 100 per cent record as a professional in the months before he finally lost on the summer tour to Australia.

He had suffered enough defeats on the way up to know that the good times wouldn't roll forever, but nothing he'd experienced would have readied him for Saturday's humbling against England.

Like Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter, Jordan Larmour and Bundee Aki, he was experiencing a whole new ball game.

Up until now, the Test arena has been Ryan's personal playground.

His astounding ability to make gain-line busting carries and dominant tackles has made him one of the top players in his position.

He has 14 caps for Ireland and beaten every major Test nation, collecting a Grand Slam for good measure.

Every Sunday the squad bounced into camp, ready for the next scalp to take, but he says this week was a bit different.

"I'd be lying if I said that the mood was the same," he said. "You're coming in on a Sunday and a lot of the lads are definitely a bit down, but some of the lads have mentioned that it's important that you don't feel sorry for yourself, because the great thing about rugby and having a game the week after a loss is that you've got the chance to make things right.

"Hopefully we can do that."

The focus has already switched to this weekend, but the anger, disappointment and frustration linger.

"There is a bit of all that," he explained. "It's not just disappointment. There is certainly anger that we let ourselves down.

"It is just channelling that in the right area to prime ourselves this week, to make sure we leave no stone unturned in our preparation.

"It wasn't easy. It isn't easy losing a Test match, especially at the Aviva, which has been a fortress.

"We were certainly hurting. I think the focus since we came in Monday has been parking that, using the hurt, flicking the page because it doesn't get any easier.

"Scotland is a big one. They are on a bit of a run. They will be looking to make it two from two."

Ryan's professionalism will help him through, but after being stymied at source against England he will be determined to play his way into the game by doing what he does best against the Scots - carrying the ball early and often to great effect.

"I do like to get into the game early, I think the bigger the stage, the more the basics count," Ryan said. "So I like to get involvements early with a carry or a tackle. If I get driven back in the carry or if I soak my tackle, I'm not going to lose my head all of a sudden."

The problem last weekend was that Ireland's ball-carriers were too often driven back.

England made 48 dominant tackles to Ireland's six, a total that won't sit well with the Irish tight five in particular.

For all the talk of Ireland not getting their emotional pitch right for the game, Ryan believes there are technical fixes they can put in place to ensure they get better go-forward ball in Edinburgh.

"We need more variation," he admitted. "If they are flying out of the line, whoever has the ball can tip on or play in behind.

"It is not the first time it has happened. We faced that kind of aggressive defence before.

"We are just going to look at getting set that bit quicker this week.

"If we do that, it will make a big difference. I wasn't surprised (by England). I think they were really good defenders, a tough team to carry against. We knew that going in. They have big boys.

"It's good experience for us, knowing that some teams are going to try and target us in the pack.

"If our shape is that bit better, we can tip on to the guy beside us or in behind. That comes into the accuracy part of it. If we get guys lined up quicker, in better shapes, then if they come up hard, you can tip on or play in behind."

Ryan's hard work has ensured it's been plain sailing at international level until now, but he is determined to keep improving.

"I can get a lot better so I am certainly not satisfied at all," he said.

"I want to push on and it was a week that reminded me we need to push on too.

"Use it as a positive and a learning experience, look back on Saturday and use it as a learning experience, kinda channel that bit of disappointment and anger."

Bouncing back is his next challenge.

Belfast Telegraph

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