By Brendan O’Brien
Rhys Ruddock has revealed that Peter O’Mahony contacted him on Sunday night, just hours after damaging knee ligaments that ended his World Cup, to wish his Leinster counterpart and replacement in the Irish squad luck.
“That’s the mark of the man,” said Ruddock in Cardiff on Tuesday. “It was the night he got the injury. He texted me to say he was delighted to hear I was coming over. It shows what a quality bloke he is, on top of being a quality player. That’d be the last thing on most people’s minds. Absolute gent.”
Like a million and more others, Ruddock sat on his couch to take in Ireland’s heroic defeat of France last Sunday, but received a call shortly after with instructions to pack his bag and make his way to the Welsh capital to link up with the rest of Joe Schmidt’s squad.
It’s a big ask for a man who originally missed out on selection for the tournament due to an arm injury that had already truncated his season before ruling him out indefinitely last March, since which he has played just 80 minutes for Leinster.
He insists he is ready if called upon.
His aerobic fitness is tip-top and he has enough experience of life under Schmidt with Leinster and Ireland to fit seamlessly enough into the plays and systems around which the Kiwi has made Ireland such a fearsome opponent when things click.
“Even from minute one I was in and making sure I was on top of the detail and catching up with the rest of the squad because they have been so on-point. The standard is there and you have to make sure that you live up to it.”
And, while this is his first taste of a World Cup, the scenario is not exactly new to him.
It’s over five years since he was plucked from duties with the Irish U20s to tour New Zealand and Australia after an injury to John Muldoon and a suspension for Jamie Heaslip left Declan Kidney sending out the SOS.
Last November, he was promoted to the first XV on the morning of the game against South Africa when Chris Henry suffered a turn due to what turned out to be a hole in the heart and Ruddock ended that day with a try and the man of the match award.
“It shouldn’t faze players,” he said of such call-ups. “It’s what you play for, at the end of the day, to play at the top level, so I’m just delighted to be here and looking forward to the challenges ahead.”