Irish coach Nigel Carolan insists James Ryan is destined for full international glory and expects his skipper to establish himself on the global stage at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester.
Ryan will lead Ireland Under-20 when they begin their campaign against their Welsh counterparts at the Manchester City Academy Stadium on June 7, before clashes with reigning champions the Baby Blacks on June 11 and newcomers Georgia Under-20 on June 15.
Carolan admitted the global tournament – which culminates with the final on June 25 and is played at both City’s Academy Stadium and Sale Sharks’ AJ Bell Stadium, with over half of the games televised on Sky Sports – could be the making of Ryan.
The Leinster lock drew comparisons with Paul O’Connell for his towering performances in the Under-20 Six Nations and Carolan has lavished further praise on his talisman.
“There’s a future international at our disposal, he is a superb athlete, a good leader, he does all his talking in how he plays,” Carolan said.
“He played every minute of all the games in the Six Nations and he just needs to get the rest of the team around him and back up that performance.
“I think this tournament will be the making of him, the rumblings are that he has got a bright future, as do a lot of the players in the squad and every year.
“This is what the Under-20 Championship is about, it gives them that experience of the world stage and the opportunity to play against some of the southern hemisphere teams.
“There is bigger fish to fry down the road because those guys who are ambitious enough will go on to bigger things.”
Though Ireland fell 35-24 to eventual Grand Slam champions Wales Under-20s in their opening encounter of this year’s championship, Carolan believes Ryan can galvanize the Irish youngsters to victory over Jason Strange’s side.
Carolan refused to shirk the ominous presence of New Zealand Under-20 in Pool A, but was adamant his charges remained focus on the similarly daunting task of trying to topple a Welsh side buoyed by their first ever championship clean sweep at Under-20s level.
Over 370 full internationals have come through the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, including Conor Murray, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane and Carolan believes that huge carrot can help his side topple the Kiwis.
He said: “We played the Baby Blacks last year and they are far from babies, but we haven’t really looked beyond Wales yet.
“All our focus since the Six Nations has been on the first game, we haven’t really looked beyond that.
“But for our players to get the opportunity to play against an All Black side and more importantly the opportunity to be the first Irish team to beat an All Black side is the challenge that we will be putting down.
“If we can get over Wales on day one, we will be looking forward to the challenge against the Blacks on Saturday.”
See the Future Stars of Rugby at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester this June. For more information, including how to buy tickets, visit http://www.englandrugby.com/u20championships/#WorldRugbyU20