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NUT JOB; WORLD CUP WARM-UP WALES v IRELAND MILLENNIUM STADIUM TOMORROW, 2.30PM Donnacha: It took an operation that ballet dancers get to sort my injury out but it worked a Cracker.

Byline: MICHAEL SCULLY

by MICHAEL SCULLY THE NUTCRACKER might seem as far removed as you can get from Donnacha Ryan's tough guy image, but he doesn't agree.

Back in the Ireland team to face Wales tomorrow after two and a half years away, the Munster second row enforcer admits he has a new-found appreciation for ballet dancers.

Ryan, 28, suffered a rare fracture in his right foot 16 months ago that required a sesamoidectomy - a risky procedure that involves the bone having to come out and more commonly associated with ballet dancers than rugby players.

It's been a long road to recovery and Ryan admits that he did wonder if he'd ever appear for Joe Schmidt at Test level - or even play rugby again at all.

It's why he's in 'Zen mode' in Ireland's World Cup training camp. With 14 players working at Carton House who won't make the final cut of 31 at the end of the month, Ryan's outlook is that what will be, will be.

"I'm very philosophical," said the Limerick man. "You have to be.

"I met a guy yesterday who has a fibular sesamoid fracture as well, he's had it for three years.

"I've met others. "You can feel their pain because they constantly have it, they're walking with a limp on the outside of their foot.

"When they see that you've had this injury, can get back running and then playing, they can see that it can be done but by the same token there is a lot of risk in getting the operation I had done.

"The surgeon said to me he had seen this only eight times before: 'Two rugby players and the other six were ballerinas, so you've high dexterity'.

"Funnily enough I've gone to see The Nutcracker since then and you've got to hand it to them, you can see why they'd get sesamoiditis after prancing around on your toes for an hour and a half."

This could be Ryan's one shot at impressing Schmidt, who did bring him into camp last year to run drills.

So the heat is on, but from where he was coming from - he even did work experience in geology as he looked at beginning a new career - it's clear that he's just enjoying the ride for what it is right now and if selection comes, that's a bonus.

"I was going from 10 months walking with a limp to being able to run his morning," he smiled.

"I was in chronic pain before I bit the bullet (and had surgery).

"You're looking at guys playing matches and I couldn't watch them because I found it hard watching people running. I couldn't even watch athletics.

"The questions are tough - the 72-year-old women in bank queues asking you 'how are you enjoying retirement?'. They're tough to answer, too!

"So personal ambitions are important, but now it's about making the most of my other personal attributes.

"Four years ago I wouldn't have been as outspoken in terms of giving encouragement, I would've been sharper with lads.

"Now you realise everyone wants to do well and it is important to facilitate that."

Nevertheless, in a Schmidt selection that only boasts two players who started in the Six Nations clincher against Scotland, Ryan is one of a number of candidates who need a good World Cup audition.

"My motivation is to go out and put in the best performance I can," Ryan said.

"It's not going to be perfect but I am really going to enjoy |it."

CAPTION(S):

ROCK AND A HARD PLACE World Cup hopeful Donnacha Ryan at Carton House, Kildare yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 7, 2015
Words:605
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