Saturday 3 December 2016

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt moves to protect Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw

Published 10/11/2016 | 14:11

Garry Ringrose
Garry Ringrose

Joe Schmidt has insisted Garry Ringrose's Test debut will not automatically usher in a brand-new Ireland centre pairing dynasty with Robbie Henshaw.

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Prodigiously-talented Leinster centre Ringrose will make his keenly-anticipated Test bow in Saturday's Aviva Stadium clash with Canada in Dublin.

The 21-year-old will be among eight potential new caps amid an entirely fresh starting XV - but head coach Schmidt has moved to dampen expectation around the fleet-footed outside centre.

Leinster powerhouse Henshaw and the defensive captain Jared Payne remain Ireland's first-choice centre pairing, and can be expected to be restored for the rematch with New Zealand in Dublin on Saturday week.

"In the end Robbie and Garry (Henshaw and Ringrose) have played together four times for Leinster," said Schmidt, when quizzed over the mouthwatering potential future double act.

"So to say they're a combination, I think they're developing as such, but whether that's sufficient...there almost has to be an intuitiveness."

Ringrose will partner Ulster's Luke Marshall in Saturday's Canada clash, as Ireland look to draw a line under last weekend's historic victory over New Zealand.

Ireland ended a 111-year wait for a maiden victory over the All Blacks, triumphing 40-29 amid joyous scenes at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Schmidt has selected an entirely fresh starting line-up to face Canada, with Ringrose, lock Billy Holland and Jack O'Donoghue all making their Test debuts.

The uncapped quintet of Hooker James Tracy, prop John Ryan, flanker Dan Leavy, scrum-half Luke McGrath and wing Niyi Adelokun are all primed to enter the fray off the bench.

Schmidt hailed Ringrose as a "natural player" capable of scything through top-level defences but is determined not to heap too much too soon on a star capable of carving out a significant Test career.

Ireland's 51-year-old boss insisted it will take time for new Leinster team-mates Ringrose and Henshaw to build the kind of telepathic relationship so enjoyed by former record-breaking centre double act Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.

"We assess as we go on, and I think Robbie was fantastic last week, but looking back at Jared's game he made a couple of very telling contributions as well," said Schmidt of Henshaw and Payne's performances against New Zealand.

"And those two know each other really well.

"You don't get a lot of time to communicate in those channels, I think it's one of the fantastic things when I walked into Leinster there was Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll, they didn't really have a lot to say to each other on the pitch.

"They just knew by the body language which way the guy was going.

"And you get such little time that if you can avoid the need for that communication I think you're better off.

"So that's something that potentially going forward is a really positive thing.

"Whether it's soon enough, I think one of the things we'll see how Luke and Garry knit together first and foremost.

"We do know that Robbie and Garry do knit together pretty well."

Experienced flankers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien will return after long-term injuries to face Canada, with both desperate to fight for inclusion in the November 19 clash with New Zealand in Dublin.

Schmidt confirmed Ireland felt it was too soon to include either man in the Chicago trip, with O'Mahony recovering from long-term knee ligament trouble and O'Brien serious hamstring problems.

The Ireland head coach admitted that sending both men into battle against Canada with points to prove having already toppled New Zealand could "potentially" represent the ideal scenario.

"I don't want them too frustrated I want them focused and ready to commit for what's best for the group and that's what they'll do," said Schmidt, of O'Mahony and O'Brien.

"As tempted as we were last week our greatest fear was somebody getting injured early in the match, and then one of those two guys having to come off the bench and having to play 70 minutes.

"We were also really confident that Jordi Murphy and Josh Van der Flier could deliver, and I think they both did a really super job sharing that load at number seven in Chicago."

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