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Kidd made a man of me, insists Ryan

To Irish rugby supporters of recent vintage, the name Murray Kidd may not be too familiar — particularly as his spell in charge of Ireland in the mid-1990s was less than successful.

Kidd took over in November 1995, but lasted just over a year before being replaced by Brian Ashton in January 1997. He returned to the All-Ireland League, where he had made his name when winning the title with Garryowen, to work with Cork club Sunday's Well.

However, while his time as national coach was far from stellar, Ireland have, nonetheless, reason to be grateful to the New Zealander as their World Cup second-row/flanker Donnacha Ryan does not believe he would be the player he is today had it not been for Kidd's influence.

“When I left St Munchin's, I went to the ‘Well under Murray Kidd,” recalled Ryan. “I was not as big a name as the rest of the boys down there, all the PBCs and CBCs.

“I wouldn't say I was the easiest for coaches to work with — the lads used to slag me that the reason I hunched over a lot was because of all the chips on my shoulders. I was just a big bag of bones really, but Murray provided one-on-one training for the year, he basically ran me into the ground, weight sessions the day before matches and stuff. I hated it, but to get bigger it was what was required.

“I was very light, bravery wasn't an issue, but I had learn how to be smart and improve my technique.”

Ryan went on to UCC and Shannon before making his way into the Munster senior squad and he believes those days as a young player in the AIL were an essential toughening-up process.

“I remember playing games against Malone and games against Midleton fondly — I still have two scars on my back from those ones,” said the Nenagh giant.

Ryan saw off stern competition from Kevin McLaughlin and Mike McCarthy to secure the Ireland back-five utility spot and he admits that making the World Cup squad was something he never envisaged during the last tournament, or even last year.

Ryan was one of the more impressive performers in Ireland's disappointing August series and is a live contender for the match-day squads at this tournament.

He doesn't know if he will get to catch up with Kidd over the next few weeks, but the former Ireland coach can take considerable pride from his role in fleshing out this ‘bag of bones' into the quality international forward he is today.

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