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Rugby World Cup: Donnacha Ryan's pleased to be back in the reckoning after relentless Romania showing

By Cian Tracey

The result was never in doubt but Joe Schmidt will have been quietly pleased with the individual performances of certain players who are looking to force their way into the thinking for the more serious business of Italy this week.

On a record breaking evening at Wembley in which 89,267 supporters, the vast majority of whom were wearing green, witnessed another piece of history as Keith Earls drew level with Brian O'Driscoll as Ireland's highest ever World Cup try scorer. Earls has been in scintillating form since returning from a lengthy lay-off and although his selection against Romania may have suggested that he had some work to do to ensure himself of his place in the starting XV on Sunday, come the full time whistle he had surely inked his name into Schmidt's plans.

Earls' performance was indicative of a player desperate to take his chance ahead of the serious business of the pool.

Simon Zebo, Chris Henry and Tommy Bowe are teetering on the fringes but they will have done their chances for selection no harm at all.

Donnacha Ryan showed signs of a return to his best and his 10 tackles (Ireland's second highest) typified his relentless work rate.

Ryan himself is on the comeback trail but he admitted that he still has some work to do before returning to the peak of his powers.

"I'm back to square one again, see how the review goes on Tuesday," Ryan responded when asked where he felt he was in terms of selection for the Italy game. "I'm quite rusty still. It's never really good enough from my point of view but I'm just delighted to be playing.

"We're trying to raise the standard of everybody, pushing guys for places and pushing guys in training."

Ryan's sentiments echoed those of his coach and although there was again plenty of room for improvement, two games into the tournament and with maximum points, it's a position that they would have taken 10 days ago.

Robbie Henshaw is the only member of the 31-man squad not to have featured but the hope is that he will train fully this week.

The fact that 30 of the 31 have been used is a major boost for morale according to Ryan: "Everyone is delighted to get a run so hopefully over the next week or two, everyone will get a full blow-out."

Schmidt will continue to temper expectations which is probably just as well given that Ireland would have expected themselves to be where they are after two games. The standard of opposition will increase this week although perhaps not as much as many may have expected prior to the tournament but nevertheless, Ryan urged caution.

"We played them four years ago in Dunedin and I'm sure they'll be gunning to make an improvement on that. We have to be aware of that and focus on what we have to do and take it from there."

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