Rhys Ruddock: strength of collective goes further than starting XV
Leinster flanker replaced Tommy O’Donnell during bruising Six Nations draw with Wales
Rhys Ruddock replaced Tommy O’Donnell during Ireland’s Six Nations draw with Wales. Photograph: Inpho
Flanker Ruddock climbed off the bench on Sunday to help Joe Schmidt’s side scramble a 16-16 draw with Wales in Dublin.
The 25-year-old will face renewed competition for a back-row berth against France in Paris on Saturday, with Sean O’Brien expected to be fit after hamstring trouble. Props Mike Ross and Cian Healy could also be fit for the Stade de France trip as boss Schmidt seeks scrum improvements.
In hailing CJ Stander’s impressive debut, Ruddock insisted boss Schmidt’s taskmaster methods came to the fore against Wales to offset the loss of 10 injured regulars.
“The strength of the collective goes a lot further than the 15 players on the field at any one time,” said Ruddock, son of former Wales coach Mike.
“The majority of the guys who were playing today have been in and around the group for a long, long time and know exactly what’s expected of them by the coaches, everyone on the staff and all the players.
“That has a lot to do with it. And it comes down to culture.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s your first game or you’ve been there for years, everyone buys into that and that’s what you see no matter who puts on the jersey.”
Veteran tighthead prop Ross has been battling hamstring trouble, while Healy is recovering from a knee injury.
Head coach Schmidt will weigh up whether to fast-track one or both back into Test action this weekend, or allow them a more measured return through provincial action with Leinster.
Bullocking flanker O’Brien’s pending return puts pressure on the likes of Ruddock and Tommy O’Donnell to retain match day squad places.
Given just a six-day gap between taking on Wales and meeting France however, Schmidt could easily seek to rotate his back-row resources.
Ruddock admitted he hopes he showed enough in his Wales cameo to convince head coach Schmidt to keep him involved against France.
“We’re happy that we’ll have Sean to come back in hopefully,” said Ruddock.
“CJ (Stander) added a lot out there today, so for me I’ve just got to focus on my own performance.
“I thought the time I had on the field I did well, and obviously I’m happy that the back-row went well as a unit too.
“I think we did well when it came to retaining the ball out there against Wales.
“And that’s a sign that your pack and your back-row are doing their job and I think everyone played their part today.”