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19th Nov 2019

‘Donnacha Ryan pretty much beat us in Paris because he’s just so fit’

Patrick McCarry

35 years old and still going strong, Donnacha Ryan is heading home again.

On Friday, Ryan, new father Simon Zebo and backs coach Mike Prendergast will all head through the Thomond Park gates cloaked in the heavily branded gear of Racing 92.

Three proud Munster men, now and always, but all plotting to defeat Saturday’s hosts at Thomond Park.

Munster topped Champions Cup Pool 4 on Saturday evening with a bonus point win over Ospreys. Less than 24 hours later and Racing 92 went one (point) better in their 30-10 victory over reigning champions Saracens.

‘Le retour’, posted Zebo, not long after the Parisiens’ win at La Defense Arena.

“Did you see the picture Zebo put up,” asked Andrew Trimble on the latest episode of Baz & Andrew’s House of Rugby. “The reddest face you’ll ever see in your life, straight after the game. Looked like Nadine Coyle’s face (in I’m A Celebrity)! Looked like he had heat-stroke!”

Barry Murphy, Trimble’s co-host, noticed Ryan plaguing Jack Singleton throughout.

“He was shouting at the Sarries hooker to throw the ball into the lineout. He was just there, ‘C’mon, C’mon, C’MON!!’ I was like, man, you can take the man out of Tipperary but… !”

Trimble, Murphy and Jerry Flannery all discussed [from 53:00 below] the impact Ryan has made at Racing since he arrived there in the summer of 2017.

Ryan endured a frustrating start at Racing as neck issues sidelined him for much of his first few months at the club. Once that issue was put to one side, the 35-year-old began to make his influence known.

In the 2017/18, Racing recovered from a 14-7 loss at Thomond Park to beat Munster twice in the competition, with the biggest blow for the Irish side coming in the semi final, at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

“Racing are a strange team,” says former Munster coach Jerry Flannery, “in that you can get at their lineout.

“But their defensive lineout is awesome. With, they have (Wenceslaus) Lauret and Donnacha Ryan has made a huge difference to them. I physically could see the difference. The minute Donnacha Ryan started for them, like, we played them in Paris… He pretty much beat us, man.

“When we went over to the U (now La Defense) Arena, he pretty much beat us because he’s just so fit.

“I think Racing are starting to figure it out. We used to play them and they’d pick this huge pack, but they just had all these big guys that were good for one or two phases but if the game went on for extended passages, they’d struggle. And then they started Lauret at No.6, who is awesome in the lineout, and Donnacha came into the mix, and he’s like a machine.

“So they’re getting a good balance there but I don’t know if they’ve got enough together to really challenge and be consistent.”

Ryan’s stand-out performance in that trilogy against Munster was the Racing home game, which the hosts won 34-30, and he duly picked up the man of the match performance before trading jerseys with his pal, Keith Earls.

The return of Zebo, Prendergast and Ryan adds some extra heat to what should be a cracking Champions Cup encounter on Saturday (5:30pm kick-off).

Leone Nakarawa is missing but Ryan will either have Dominic Bird or Boris Palu to team up with against, most likely, Billy Holland and Jean Kleyn (with Tadhg Beirne a possibility too). That alone would be enough to justify the entrance fee.



Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined by Jerry Flannery in the House of Rugby studio to look back on a winning weekend of Champions Cup rugby, and the influence of Donnacha Ryan at Racing 92.

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