Ringrose primed for the long road ahead
Published 14/11/2016 | 02:30
Prior to Saturday night, the last time Garry Ringrose had worn the green jersey, he was left with a sense of what might have been - but now he is dreaming of the endless opportunities that lie ahead.
Last year, Ringrose's promising Ireland U-20s side were forced to settle for a disappointing seventh place finish at the World Cup. For a player who had lit up schools rugby, the natural progression to the U-20s was seamless.
After ignoring the mass clamour for him to be included in the Six Nations and later the summer tour to South Africa, Joe Schmidt finally unleashed one of the country's most prized assets against Canada.
As the camera panned to the 21-year-old during the anthems, the nerves were etched across his face and he admitted as much afterwards, but it didn't take him long to settle into proceedings.
After a few early touches, the former Blackrock College student cut a scything line off Paddy Jackson to dot down after 19 minutes.
It would have been a dream start but for the referee ruling that Jackson's pass was marginally forward. But not to worry, there were enough positives from Ringrose's overall performance to suggest that he will be a mainstay in the Ireland side for many years to come.
His 47th minute searing break was a snapshot of what Ringrose is all about. He does the basics so well but crucially, his explosiveness is deceptive.
Patience has been the key and the likelihood is that he will have to remain so. Ringrose was on the bench in Chicago and although he didn't get on the pitch, he will be all the better for the experience.
Keith Earls will come back into the equation for the rematch against New Zealand on Saturday but Ringrose will continue to take it all in his stride.
"I suppose being over in Chicago was pretty cool," he said modestly.
"To be over there and see what is expected of the players in the lead of up to one of the biggest games in Irish history was a cool experience. I was able to learn a few lessons off the senior players and then bring it into this week.
"I was pretty nervous, to be honest but I was excited at the same time. There was eight of us involved making our debut so a lot of the senior players stood up and made their voices heard as well as all the coaches demanding and expecting nothing but the best out of the younger guys - whether it be one cap or 100 caps. Everyone had to be on the same page.
"I suppose there is so much competition, it's not really something that I would have expected or foreseen. I would always take the adage of focusing on the next challenge - provincially and enjoying any opportunity I get there.
"I was delighted to hear early on in the week that I would be starting but I knew it meant that I had to pull the sleeves up and work hard in the lead up to it. It was a pretty cool experience.
"I will be looking forward to seeing the tape. I will see the few errors I made and try and learn from them. You've got to make the mistakes to learn from them.
"The senior players do help you in that regard. They hammer home the basics and you try to fit into the team as much as possible.
"I was lucky enough to be involved for two years at U-20s under Mike Ruddock and Nigel Carolan. You learn from experience like that and it's a step up each time.
"Any exposure, to high intensity international games at 20s level has a knock-on effect. That kicks on again when it comes to provincial. It's all building so there's never a huge leap. It's a kind of a gradual progression."
Ringrose may not have had time to process it all but during the anthems, his mind was focused.
"It was a pretty special moment. I was thinking about my friends, family, past coaches and people who that I've dealt with who have helped me get to this point. I was trying to do them justice and try and get the win.
"It's only after the game is finished or the next day you get a chance to decompress at all. I would be over the moon if I'm lucky enough to get another opportunity like that."
The achievement is likely to have since set in for Ringrose. The gifted centre was born for the international stage and Saturday was a glimpse of what the future holds. Sit back and enjoy the journey to follow.