Andy Farrell: Curiosity key factor in making James Ryan top cat against England

Ireland coach outlines decision to make young secondrow captain for Twickenham game

Ireland coach Andy Farrell is expecting Ireland to meet England's physicality in Twickenham on Saturday. Video: VOTN

 

Autumn Nations Cup: England v Ireland

Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday. Venue: Twickenham. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 2.30pm. On TV: Live on RTÉ 1 and Channel 4.

Ireland coach Andy Farrell has explained his decision to make James Ryan captain against England at Twickenham this Saturday.

“I’ve 100 per cent seen a curiosity in James over the last nine months,” said Farrell. “He has matured as far as his leadership is concerned.

“Over the last couple of years everyone has talked about James being a potential captain, a potential leader for this team. I saw something at the start of the Six Nations where he actually started to think that ‘people are talking about me this way, maybe I should do something about it’. He has 100 per cent come to the fore with his curiousness and how he wants to lead.

“I have been super impressed over the last nine months with how he handles himself, first and foremost, and how he interacts and thinks of others.”

This is the first Ireland versus England game since 2011 that Johnny Sexton or Conor Murray are not in the starting XV. Ireland have not won this fixture since March 2018 with three successive defeats on an aggregate score of 113-47.

“It is a big chance for us as a group to find out where we are at on our journey,” added Farrell. “I’ve said before, there is a bit of a disparity in the mental age of this group. Some really experienced players and youth as well. We are trying to close that gap.

“To move forward we got to give people a chance on the big stage.”

Jamison Gibson-Park, the 28-year old New Zealander, is retained at scrumhalf for only his second start while Murray’s 90th Test cap will come off the bench.

Ireland’s Bundee Aki during training ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup match against England. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland’s Bundee Aki during training ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup match against England. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Leinster’s reserve outhalf Ross Byrne has been preferred ahead of Ulster’s Billy Burns as Sexton recovers from a hamstring injury.

“Ross deserves the chance,” Farrell explained. “It is like others, how do you find out about how they cope with the big occasions unless you give them a chance. He has been involved in some big games for Leinster and this is a chance to go to Twickenham for a big game.

“I’ve no concerns whatsoever about him. He will play his own game. Ross will be his own guy at the weekend, how he plays is very calm, cool and collected.”

Quinn Roux partners Ryan in the secondrow with Farrell retaining the front five that dominated Wales during last weekend’s 32-9 victory in Dublin.

Peter O’Mahony switches to openside wing forward as CJ Stander returns at blindside and Caelan Doris is retained at number eight following last Saturday’s man-of-the match-performance.

“What’s Pete’s skill set? We know he is unbelievably good over the ball and how great he is in the lineout, which we saw last week. We know he can play an eyes up type of game with ball in hand as well. I thought his physicality last week was awesome.

“We expect Pete to be nothing more than that. He will be a threat because he is a great player for us.”

Will Connors provides backrow cover against an extremely powerful England pack.

Interestingly, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale return – after being late withdrawals last week due to the Ulster captain’s “medical issue” and the fullback’s “calf strain” – but neither can command a place in the team.

“I actually can’t [elaborate on Henderson’s medical problem], it is a private issue that I would leave to the medics and Iain,” said Farrell. “He is fit and able and raring to go.”

Hugo Keenan remains at fullback – a position that has been exposed by England’s kicking game in the recent past when Robbie Henshaw and Jordan Larmour wore 15 – with James Lowe and Keith Earls on the wings.

“Hugo deserves another start . . . Jacob missed a few training sessions but I am sure he will be chomping at the bit and ready to go, coming off the bench,” said Farrell

Bundee Aki replaces the injured Henshaw at inside centre beside Munster’s Chris Farrell.

The squad has five starters – Aki, Lowe, Gibson-Park, Roux and Stander – that qualify via the three-year residency rule, since extended to five years, while Billy Burns, Finlay Bealham and Rob Herring used the ‘granny rule’ to declare for Ireland.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronán Kelleher, Andrew Porter; Quinn Roux, James Ryan (capt); CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.

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