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new era James Ryan hails change of style as Ireland test game plan against French

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Ireland second-row James Ryan. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland second-row James Ryan. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland second-row James Ryan. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland's vice-captain James Ryan says the team are relishing the “heads-up” attacking approach that has brought them such success in recent months.

The Leinster second-row says head coach Andy Farrell has urged them not to get sucked into playing pre-programmed “Playstation rugby”, but to back their skills on the pitch.

Farrell’s charges go to Paris this Saturday in search of a 10th successive victory, one that would put them firmly in the box-seat for a first Guinness Six Nations title since 2018 and potentially a Grand Slam.

Ryan knows that the resurgent French will offer a fresh threat, but the lock says the team are revelling in an environment that allows them to trust their skills.

“That would be one of the things ‘Faz’ (Farrell) would say, we don’t want to play ‘Playstation rugby’,” the Dubliner said.

“We want to play what’s in front of us, not just playing the play for the sake of it, just playing early to where the space is or playing what’s on.

“So, I think that’s one thing that’s come on. We’re playing to space early, our attack is very connected and we’re playing heads-up rugby. It’s definitely an area we’ve looked at.”

Although the Irish players always insisted that they were moving in the right direction when the team went through a period of tough results and performances last season, Ryan conceded that the winning run has helped infuse some much-needed belief into the side Farrell’s outfit. However, he warned against getting carried away on the back of home wins over New Zealand in November and Wales last week in the Aviva Stadium.

“It instils a bit of belief that the path you’re following is going in the right direction,” he said.

“I think confidence is important. Probably at the same time, I know what we spoke about last week, in 2018 we beat New Zealand at home in the Aviva and it was a massive win, the first time on Irish soil ... then we rocked up and got steamrolled in the first game of the Six Nations.

“So I think we’re pretty grounded and we know that it’s a new campaign now. It's not starting again but there can't be any complacency, we've got to keep pushing forward,” Ryan continued.

"Even though we were happy with last week, this week is another challenge and a good opportunity for us to keep pushing our boundaries.

"It was a good start. Probably the good thing about it is, as Faz said and he was right, it was a good start but there was a lot we could be better at.

“It's a good place to be with this week in mind. The general feeling was that we have another level in us, so loads to improve on and work on and it's an exciting week.

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"This is one of the fixtures that you want to be involved in, away in the Stade de France. It's such an amazing stadium and these are the games you want to be involved in so it's a great feeling to the week so far.”

Ryan made his Six Nations debut on the day Johnny Sexton dropped that goal but equally, he has bad memories of his last visit to the French capital, when Ireland’s title hopes went up in smoke behind closed doors.

"It was incredible. The whole week was just class, I didn't anticipate starting that game at all at the time and I was in the team and it was amazing, to be involved in a game like that was incredible,” he said of the 2018 game.

"I just remember the noise in the stadium, the French were really getting behind their team and really getting involved in the game.

"The last time we went there there was 80,000 empty seats so this weekend there will be 80,000 people there and that's another part of it, the crowd definitely play a part.

"I suppose we'll have to do our best to quieten them, for want of a better word.”

France will have to cope without injured out-half Mathieu Jalibert, with the Bordeaux Bègles star set to be ruled out with a thigh issue, which means Romain Ntamack will continue at No 10.

Coach Fabien Galthié is due to return to training today after missing Sunday’s win over Italy with Covid-19. Like Ireland, France name their team tomorrow.

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