Nothing stands still in professional sport. Leinster, weighed down by silverware last season, have set about somehow improving on last year. They also have new leaders to the fore.

Johnny Sexton slipping into the void created by Isa Nacewa’s retirement raised few eyebrows. The out-half has been a vocal lieutenant ever since he established himself as Leinster’s number one out-half, with the performances to back it up.

The selection of Rhys Ruddock is perhaps a nod to the unquestionable commitment and attitude of the back rower.

Rudduck’s talent has never been matter of discussion. Flung into the Test arena as a teenager in summer tour to Australia 2010, injuries have been a constant battle in his career to date.

For Ireland he has often been reduced to the role of a spectator – in eight Six Nations campaigns he has made just five appearances and all of those off the bench – and played no part in this year’s Grand Slam campaign after a serious hamstring injury.

Highly regarded by team-mates, the 27-year-old is now very much part of the senior group – it is now seven years since he became the province’s youngest-ever captain – and keen to take the next step in his career.  

"I was delighted with the news. It’s a massive honour and something I take great pride in," he told RTÉ Sport.

"Something I’m keen to grow are my leadership skills. If I can have a positive effect on the group, I would like to do that.

"Leo spoke to me and said he wanted to make me vice-captain and Johnny captain. I was delighted on both fronts.

"Johnny has big shoes to fill with Isa leaving, but I think Johnny is the right man to do it and lead the team forward. I’m hoping I can give him support along the way."

Ruddock battled his way back to full fitness in time to start the Pro14 semi-final and final, something he admits had a significant outlook on his season.

"It was really special. The opportunity to get back and play changed my perspective and made it easier for me."

Where to next for Leinster?

They are short odds to retain their Pro14 titles and while the bookies have them as the team to beat again in Europe, they are likely to face increased competition from a number of French clubs, Munster and Saracens.

According to Ruddock, the group are fully focused on pushing on again this year to add to the trophy cabinet.

"It was a hugely successful season, but there is definitely room for growth.

"A lot of what we aim to learn from last year for the previous season was based on how to win those big games. We felt like we improved a lot as a squad.

"The previous year, we did a huge amount right, but when it came down to the big games, we couldn’t get over the line.

Rhys Ruddock, Joe Tomane and Dan Leavy pictured at the launch of the 2018/19 Leinster home and alternate jersey.

"Now that we managed to do that, it’s about being good enough to take leanings from it. The coaches have been great, at whether we win or lose, finding reflection in our performances and how we can be better."

From a personal point of view he couldn’t be in better shape. While in previous years the flanker has come a cropper early in the season, he says the body "feels great" and there is no holding back in pre-season.

"In previous seasons I have had issues that have stumbled me two or three weeks into the season and I’m behind everyone else, so it’s nice to get a fresh start."

Ruddock and Leinster going from strength to strength.

The new Leinster jerseys are available to preorder now in Life Style Sports stores and online at