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14th Mar 2021

Martin Johnson was singing the praises of Ryan Baird after Ireland’s win

Patrick McCarry

Ryan Baird

Jamie Heaslip even touted the Leinster lock for the Lions… in 2025.

Watch out the Wallabies, in four years’ time. Ryan Baird is only two Tests into his international career – both as a sub – but he is getting folks talking.

The 22-year-old, who made his Ireland debut against Italy a fortnight ago, came on for James Ryan (Head Injury Assessment) in the second half of the away win over Scotland. For the second time in two outings, he made a big impact.

While Baird delivered some lusty gallops against the Italians, his biggest moment against Scotland arrived when Ireland were pegged back to 24-24 after leading by 14 at one stage.

After Stuart Hogg had converted Scotland’s try, from Hamish Watson, Ireland restarted and the home side tried to clear their lines. Baird was on the scene in a flash and blocked a clearing kick from Ali Price with his outstretched paws before reacting smartly.

Price scrambled to retain possession but Baird wrestled him to the turf and Iain Henderson was next man in, latching onto the ball and gaining Ireland what turned out to be the match-winning penalty.

Sexton slotted the penalty over from out near the touchline and it was enough to see Ireland home, 27-24. Sexton later declared:

It was brilliant by Ryan Baird to get the charge down. He’s so explosive for the first couple of steps and then to make the tackle that he does. Iain Henderson [on the poach] was outstanding as well.”

Following the match, that late impact from Baird was fulsomely praised by former England and Lions captain Martin Johnson.

JOHNSON: Who charged that down, Ryan Baird?

HEASLIP: Yeah. Good Trinity College man. My club. Can’t say it enough!

JOHNSON: He got really high. That was really good. Got one hand on that ball.

HEASLIP: Yeah. He’s a big, athletic second row. Him and James Ryan together… maybe not this tour, but four years’ time for a Lions Tour. Watch out for the two of them.

Jamie Heaslip, who would have been well aware of Baird coming through the Leinster ranks, tipped him for the Lions, but maybe not this summer.

Ryan, who did not return after his HIA and may be a doubt for next week’s game against England, is already well set for that Lions series against South Africa. Baird may yet force himself into the picture if he gets more minutes against England and can similarly impress for Leinster in the coming months.


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