Ronan Kelleher joined Joe Molloy on Off The Ball on Tuesday night to discuss Alun Wyn Jones.
Ronan Kelleher is Ireland's first-choice hooker now. He's the established starter despite Dan Sheehan's sizeable presence.
Kelleher entered the November Internationals as the starter but established himself as a star during those games. He was especially impressive in Ireland's biggest game against New Zealand. But back in the summer, the 23-year-old was a surprise addition to Warren Gatland's Lions squad.
While he didn't play in the tests, Kelleher got a chance to room with a rugby legend in Alun Wyn Jones.
The Wales captain was recovering from a shoulder injury, which put him in the same room as Kelleher when he arrived late. Jones would go onto play in the tests despite initially being ruled out of the tour. It wasn't a surprise to the young Irish hooker as he saw the veteran's preparation up close every day.
"I thought Alun Wyn Jones was actually great," Kelleher said.
"He just had a lot of fascinating insights really. It was very lucky that I got those five days to discuss with him. It was very enjoyable really, picking up a lot of different things from him. One of the things I was most shocked with was considering his age he was still one of the strongest, one of the fittest and trained the hardest."
Jones is famously a leader. At 36 years of age, he was Lions captain after captaining Wales to a Six Nations win. But his performances as an individual have rebounded during his mid-thirties also. He had bad stretches of form that suggested he was coming to the end of his career prior to 2021.
Kelleher wasn't shy trying to take as much as he could from Jones.
"Picking his brain on little things with regards to recovery and strength and conditioning was just really good insight as a young player to get. It's definitely something I've taken with me. There were a few nuggets in there for sure. The way he thought about the game, the way he thought about recovery and stuff like that. It was all very interesting to me and something I've taken back with me and discussed with mates of min in Leinster.
"They've all been really caught by it as well."
Lions tours have less appeal now that Northern Hemisphere teams are beating Southern Hemisphere teams on their own. But these cross-sections of different teams and cultures is what makes the tour valuable.
As a young, emerging star player, Kelleher retrieved invaluable experience on that tour. He is surrounded by plenty of stars at Leinster. Nobody can tell Johnny Sexton that Alun Wyn Jones knows more than him. But a fresh voice always helps when moulding susceptible minds. Who knows, maybe Ireland can thank Jones for Kelleher's November performances.
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