‘We all know what Ryan Baird is capable of. He has got real X factor’

DAVE KILCOYNE HAS backed Ryan Baird to step up to the plate if he is thrown in for his first international start against England on Saturday.

With James Ryan forced to undergo a head injury assessment near the end of Ireland’s 27-24 win over Scotland on Sunday, Baird was thrown in for the closing minutes and ended up saving the day, winning the penalty that Johnny Sexton subsequently kicked to give Ireland the victory.

“We made it very hard for ourselves in that final quarter,” said Kilcoyne. “I felt we were in control at 24-10 and then we defended poorly and let them into the game when we shouldn’t have. We should have closed it out better.

“But Ryan comes on, pulls off a great block down which just shows the great talent he has.

“We all know what Ryan is capable of. He has got real X factor.

“He’s a different type of player to James Ryan. Whereas James is an incredible player as well – excellent set-piece play, carries really hard, excels at the ruck, at everything – Ryan probably is a little bit different. He plays more like a wing or a back row and is capable of a few things that most of us forwards aren’t.

“To see him coming on was great and he’ll take great confidence from his impact.”

With this in mind, Kilcoyne has no worries about Baird starting against England – if called upon. “No, definitely not, 100 percent not,” the Munster and Ireland loosehead, said. “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough in this game at the moment. We’d have no qualms about Ryan Baird starting.”

Kilcoyne has backed Baird to shine. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

So far this championship – outside of the Italy games – has been unpredictable. Scotland won away in England for the first time in 38 years; France beat Ireland in Dublin for the first time in a decade; Wales came into the tournament out of form and are now one win away from a grand slam; out of form England found form last weekend. Now they face Ireland.

“They’re on the back of a big win,” said Kilcoyne. “The level of competition amongst all of the nations has gone up in this tournament so we’d really want to be on our A game against England.

“Obviously you set out your goals at the start, to win it. That’s not possible now but if we can get second we’ll go gung-ho for that. We’ll regroup and come up with a plan to tackle England.”

And having played second fiddle to Cian Healy for a decade – Kilcoyne likes the idea of being part of that plan from the start.

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“Look, I don’t want to give you the generic answer that it’s in the coaches’ hands but whatever the coaches need from me for that last weekend then that’s my role,” he said.

“There is excellent competition in the squad, you mention Ryan Baird, if there was a knock to James Ryan, you see what he did. You’ve seen how well Ports (Andrew Porter) has been playing and Tadhg Furlong comes back and plays like that. You see how well Rob Herring is playing and then Rónan Kelleher comes on and plays well. Cian has been playing very well, excellent today.

“That’s one thing Faz (Andy Farrell) is massive on, he wants us all to be leaders and not getting your own way. You lead yourself by your own actions and I think you see that with all the young lads coming through. That’s how the squad grows and gets better, everyone steps up into that role and that’s quite infectious.”

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