Ireland must share load in Jared Payne's absence says Garry Ringrose
Garry Ringrose insists Ireland cannot afford to appoint another defensive captain in the absence of backline boss Jared Payne.
Leinster prodigy Ringrose has slotted in at outside centre for Ireland with Ulster stalwart Payne missing the entire RBS 6 Nations through long-term kidney trouble.
Durable centre Payne has spearheaded Ireland's defensive effort under boss Joe Schmidt, with Ringrose admitting the 31-year-old's injury has forced a shift in focus.
And Ringrose has now challenged Ireland's backline to shoulder Payne's defensive leadership burden right across the entire division in Saturday's clash with France in Dublin.
"Jared is incredible defensively, and I've learned as much as I could off him training with him and watching him on TV," said Ringrose.
"To describe Jared as the defensive captain is very true.
"I don't think there's a specific defensive captain now, I think collectively we all have to buy in and not one person is defending on their own.
"We're better collectively, so I don't think there's a captain I could single out.
"If I could be half the player Jared is I'd be over the moon.
"With him being injured I've just had to try to best fill his shoes with the opportunity I've been given."
A sloppy defensive effort in leaking three early tries cost Ireland any kind of Grand Slam tilt in their very first Six Nations clash.
Ireland's rearguard alignment let them down in that 27-22 loss in Edinburgh on February 4, though Schmidt's men hit back to dispatch Italy 63-10 in Rome a week later.
Ringrose has long since been tipped as the heir-apparent to Brian O'Driscoll's 13 shirt for Ireland.
The 21-year-old has now racked up five caps since his November debut against Canada, claiming smart tries against Australia and Italy.
But while that Scotland defeat proved chastening for both Ringrose and Ireland, the Leinster star has predicted his toughest Test match challenge yet against Les Bleus.
What Ringrose lacks in size he more than makes up for in positioning and anticipation, but he admitted facing the hefty French outfit will prove another step up in physicality.
"This will be the most physical challenge for me so far, and it's the biggest challenge for me so far, full stop," said Ringrose.
"They've incredible size and skill in the centre.
"You can't get too caught up in the talent they have out wide because first you've got to worry about what they've got in the middle.
"It will be a huge test, and a huge challenge with Remi Lamerat and Gael Fickou in their centres.
"I certainly have to be switched on and we've got to bring our A game if we want to make an impact."