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Leo Cullen labels James Ryan as the ‘form lock in the northern hemisphere’

“He’s been probably the form lock in the northern hemisphere.”

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has praised James Ryan’s form over the last couple of seasons after the lock missed out on selection for the Lions.

Ryan was one of several surprise omissions from Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions squad, as six locks – Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson, Jonny Hill, Tadhg Beirne, Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje – were all selected ahead of him.

Cullen was speaking to the Irish Independent about the talented second row forward and argued that Ryan has been the most in-form lock in the northern hemisphere over the last few seasons.

Leo Cullen on James Ryan.

“In many ways, he’s been probably the form lock in the northern hemisphere, you could argue, over the last couple of seasons, he’s won a European Cup, won a Grand Slam,” Cullen said.

“And as I said, this season is a bit disjointed for a few different reasons, but all you can focus on is the next thing, so that’s the most important bit and that’s what he was doing.

“So it was focus on the next challenge, try to play well and put his hand up so if something happens to somebody else, he’s hopefully ready to go.

“That’s all he can control at the moment. He’s been good, and very vocal in the group this week, which is good.”

Recent injury problems derailed James Ryan’s Lions ambitions.

Ryan had limited game time in this year’s Six Nations, having missed the games against France and England entirely and came off after 24 minutes in the opening match against Wales due to a head injury.

Ryan’s limited playing time has, presumably, had a negative effect on his chances of selection for the Lions. While Leinster’s disappointing performance against La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final did not help his cause.

The Ireland international played in all 80 minutes of Leinster’s victory against Ulster in the Rainbow Cup on Saturday night, however, and made a whopping 31 tackles in a physical encounter at the RDS Arena.

Ryan

“He has a little bit of a late start getting into the return to play, so you can sometimes chase the season a little bit. A couple of bangs then during the Six Nations, and it just gets a bit disjointed,” Cullen explained.

“But James is such a great voice in the group already. He’s so young, still 24 years of age, has unbelievable experience built up and he’s very committed to the cause.

“It was good to see him get through 80 minutes and still going strong at the end. He’s going to get stronger and stronger.”

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