Autumn Nations Cup: Andy Farrell backs James Ryan to shine as Ireland captain

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James Ryan
Ryan assumed the captaincy in the first half of last week’s win over Wales after Johnny Sexton went off injured
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday 21 November Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and Radio Ulster, and online with live text commentary

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has praised the strides James Ryan has taken to become a leader within the squad during 2020.

The Leinster lock will captain his country from the start for the first time against England on Saturday with regular skipper Johnny Sexton injured.

Ryan, 24, has long been touted as a future captain given his leadership experience at underage level and the understanding that he will be a mainstay in the starting line-up for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve 100% seen a curiosity in James over the last nine months of him maturing regarding his leadership,” said Farrell.

“Over the last couple of years everyone’s talked about James being a potential leader for this team.

“I saw something nine months ago when we went into the start of the Six Nations where he actually started to think probably ‘while people are talking about me in this vein, maybe I should start doing something about it’.

“He has 100% come to the fore in his curiousness of how he wants to lead, etc.”

Having made his international debut in 2017, Ryan quickly became the linchpin of Ireland’s pack and defensive line.

The Dubliner assumed the captaincy for the first time during last week’s win over Wales when a hamstring injury forced Sexton from the field in the first half.

England Ireland
England have enjoyed the better of recent matches against Ireland

In the last two years, England have been Ireland’s chief tormentors, comfortably winning all three meetings between the sides.

The most recent game, a 24-12 result at Twickenham in February, saw England physically dominate their opponents, as was the case in both 2019 matches.

“There’s a reason why teams can be physical. Teams that are physical tend to have a flow to their game, playing in the right parts of the field,” said Farrell.

“We know that England’s game is very much a territory-based game and they try and force errors upon you, and obviously play in your half.

“We weren’t able to be physical in our last outing at Twickenham because they harassed us in many areas and we weren’t quite clinical enough in our exiting, in our set-piece, etc.

“When things start to go wrong like that the other team tends to get an opportunity to be physical.”

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