James Ryan's misfortune opens Leinster and Ireland doors for Ryan Baird
Even before contact sessions returned, Leinster were losing players to injury.
Opportunity is knocking for Ryan Baird, and a few of Leinster's other young guns.
Many of us enjoying a break from the news and sports news cycles over the bank holiday weekend may have missed the injury update Leinster Rugby released on Monday. James Ryan, Adam Byrne, Peter Dooley and Vakh Abdaladze are all likely to miss the August inter-pros with Ryan suffering the most concerning injury of the quarter. Leinster stated:
'James Ryan suffered a shoulder injury in training before the recent break and had a procedure to address the issue. He will be out of action for up to 10-12 weeks.'
August and September will be all about rest and rehab for Ryan and he would have to be listed as a major doubt for the Blues' Champions Cup games set for October. With international rugby taking up much of the calendar for November and December, Ryan may not be lining out for many more games in 2020. With one season set to roll into the next, and the Lions Tour slated for the summer of 2021, the 24-year-old should take a longer term look at his return to play.
Ryan's misfortune opens the door for a Leinster forward who can play in the back row but has already impressed at senior level at lock. Ryan Baird has only played seven times for Leinster's senior team but has already ran in a hat-trick of tries and has been called into the Ireland squad by Andy Farrell.
During the lockdown period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 21-year-old spoke with Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby about improvements to his game and how he was staying in shape (physically and mentally) during the break in play.
"I went off an got some weights, and a couple of bits and bobs from Leinster," said Baird, who saw his period at home with his parents and siblings as 'a good development block'. He added:
"I'm doing five or six gym sessions a week, and we've got three runs to do [each week]. We did broncos there last week [20 metres sprint and back, 40 back, 60 back, five times] and doubles too. It was tough.
"I naturally would be more fit but I felt, during the season, that I'd like a bit more bulk. So I've basically been trying to put on weight these last nine weeks. I've been gym-ing really hard and eating loads. It's working as I've put on a bit, around three or four kilos (7lbs). I've got my brothers to throw balls with in the back garden and work on skills with. Skills and putting on weight are the two key things I'm working on."
Baird has indeed added more timber to his 6-foot-6 frame and is not the only youngster to have filled out over the past five months. Munster captain Peter O'Mahony recently told us that several academy players had 'turned into small monsters over the last few weeks'.
Baird has also taken a keen interest in sports psychology and mindfulness as useful tools to improve himself, and his game. That includes using the Headspace app - for meditation and mindfulness pieces - and reaching out to a sports performance coach.
"I’d say it was really, to be honest, only last September - before I was getting into the Six Nations Under 20s cycle - when I looked into it," he says.
"I was like, ‘I’m doing everything physically that I can to get myself into the best shape but I’m not really doing anything mentally’. So then I got in touch with a sports performance coach, who I’m working with at the moment. I started working with him and that was really helpful. It helped me understand how I’m thinking about the game. I found that really helpful and it let me focus in on the game and stay in the moment."
Baird and Scott Fardy teamed up well for Leinster in early 2020 and the Leinster coaches also have the likes of Devin Toner, Jack Dunne and Ross Molony to call upon. Charlie Ryan is another that impressed on Ireland U20 duty and who will be targeting game-time as rugby returns.
Baird will be itching to get a spot in that Leinster second row when Munster come to the Aviva Stadium on August 22. Proving himself in a hard-fought inter-pro with hundreds of thousands tuning in is one hell of a stage that awaits. He could find himself packing down with Fardy against RG Snyman and either Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley or Billy Holland. A whole heap of handfuls.
After that, the way 2019/20 is lined up to conclude, it is big game after big game after big game. If Baird can slot in and not make Leinster miss Ryan too much, it bodes well for his Ireland chances too.
For those willing and able, the rugby world is their's for the taking.
WATCH THAT RYAN BAIRD INTERVIEW HERE:
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