Ireland cannot “copy and paste” former captain Paul O’Connell’s talismanic traits into their RBS 6 Nations campaign, according to Donnacha Ryan.
Munster lock Ryan has warned Ireland’s pack not to waste time trying to emulate O’Connell, who retired from Test rugby after the World Cup.
Ryan insists Ireland’s engine room can fire even without his former Munster team-mate O’Connell and Ulster powerhouse Iain Henderson, missing for the tournament with hamstring trouble.
Ryan could partner lineout specialist Devin Toner in Sunday’s Aviva Stadium clash with Wales, as Ireland seek an unprecedented third-consecutive Six Nations title.
“Paul was unique, but it’s not as though we’re playing with 14 players now,” said Ryan. “Whoever comes in will do just as good a job.
“If anything it will spur them on to try even harder and be just as aggressive.
“There’s no point doing a copy and paste of what Paulie did because he was unique.
“We’ve got to bring our own traits and habits.
“You just want to do your job and do it as well as you possibly can. That’s all we’re being asked to do.”
New captain Rory Best is now Ireland’s most-capped current star after O’Connell’s retirement, and 32-year-old Ryan has backed the hooker’s leadership credentials.
Ryan in fact believes Ireland still have a host of natural leaders to fall back on in O’Connell’s absence.
“Paulie might have been the spearhead and a big voice as well, but there was always a bedrock of guys behind him,” said Ryan.
“There’s no shortage of leaders. It’s infectious as well, and people lead by example.
“It raises everyone’s standard, and helps young guys coming in as they see the expectations.”
Wales will hope their totemic lock Alun Wyn Jones can control the set-piece action on Sunday, but Ryan is adamant Ireland can mix it with Warren Gatland’s side in the tight exchanges.
“Alun Wyn Jones is a Lions captain and a big unit,” said Ryan.
“You’ve got Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies off the bench.
“They are all big and abrasive, heavy guys who have been going well.
“But we have great talent there too. Devin Toner has probably been our most consistent player.
“Mike McCarthy has been playing well for Leinster and Ultan Dillane has been tremendous, he is a real livewire.
“Wales have a lot of experience but we have a lot in our tank as well.”
Sunday’s game in Dublin has a 3pm kick-off.