James Ryan admits he's got huge respect for Eben Etzebeth

James Ryan admits he's got huge respect for Eben Etzebeth

Ireland lock James Ryan has expressed his immense respect for his fellow player, Eben Etzebeth, ahead of their game against the world champions, South Africa, on Saturday.

Ireland and South Africa are set to face off in what promises to be the highlight game of the tournament at the Stade de France this weekend. South Africa has already announced their team for the match, including their renowned forwards. Ireland are also expected to unveil their own team later this evening. Ireland are likely to field their own set of forwards for this match.

Ryan, who is expected to start as one of Ireland's locks, will be facing Etzebeth in Paris. Towering lock Etzebeth has recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup opener against Scotland in time for Saturday evening’s mouthwatering Paris showdown

When asked about his counterpart's abilities on the rugby pitch, Ryan lavished praise on the 31-year-old ahead of the Saturday showdown.

"He's one of the best locks in the world, undoubtedly," said Ryan. "He's essentially the complete second-row player. He possesses a strong work rate, excels in the set piece, is excellent in the air for line-out defense, and has a great rugby IQ. He's a vital player for their team."

Despite his admiration for Etzebeth, Ryan believes that Ireland's chances of winning the match will hinge more on their own performance than on South Africa's strengths or weaknesses this weekend.

"While we certainly respect them and acknowledge their strengths," he added, "big games are about asserting yourself on the field. You need to focus on your own performance and make sure you execute all aspects of your game well to put in a strong performance."

Both Ireland and South Africa enter the match with two wins from two games in the tournament. While Ireland's victories over Romania (82-8) and Tonga (59-16) were impressive, facing the reigning world champions presents a more unique challenge.

Ryan acknowledges the significance of the match and the respect they have for South Africa but also admitted that the team were excited about the impending challenge of facing the Boks in Paris

"It's clearly a significant step up," said the Leinster and Ireland lock. "They are the reigning world champions, and we hold them in high regard. We understand that we need to elevate our game this week. There's added pressure associated with the occasion, but we're very enthusiastic.

"Playing against the world champions at the Stade de France during World Cup week, with 30,000 Irish supporters in the stadium, is very exciting. It's a fantastic week to be part of. There's an extra edge throughout the week, but at the same time, it's an incredible opportunity."

Match Details:

  • Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
  • Venue: Stade de France, Paris
  • Kick-off: 8:00 pm (9:00 pm local)
  • Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
  • TV Coverage: Live on ITV (UK) and RTÉ (ROI)