Saturday 23 September 2017

'It's a different kettle of fish coming into the Six Nations' - Ringrose relishing new challenge

Garry Ringrose, who scored a try against Australia last year (inset), is relishing the challenge ahead
Garry Ringrose, who scored a try against Australia last year (inset), is relishing the challenge ahead
Garry Ringrose, who turned 22 last week, makes his fourth Ireland appearance Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Sometimes youth can be freighted with much more awareness that one suspects. For Garry Ringrose, his time, the big time, has come; some would say that it is more than overdue.

However, he has to remind us that he has only played three times for Ireland. And we have to remind ourselves that, until he steps upon potentially sodden Scottish turf tomorrow, he has never before played in the oldest and greatest championship in world rugby.

It just seems that he has become a fixture in our minds, perhaps accelerated by the immediate endorsement of Brian O'Driscoll two Christmases ago; in his opinion, his Leinster successor simply had to start the last campaign.

He didn't; whether by coincidence or not, neither did Ireland, experiencing their most depressing opening to a championship this century.

And yet his introduction now carries with it none of the bells and whistles that it may have done last spring; then, Irish rugby was reeling from the wounding aftermath of a severe World Cup hangover.

Flopped

As Ireland flopped in February, their demise was accompanied by the first Irish absence from the European club rugby knock-out stages in 18 years.

It may have been the best of times to recruit new blood; it may also have been the worst. Gradually, Joe Schmidt did, however; a process of blooding that seemed to accelerate as 2016 progressed, with 18 in all; it was no surprise that Ireland's fortunes improved the more depth they created.

Nevertheless, when Jonathan Sexton's withdrawal was announced earlier this week, the reverberations caused many to splutter into their Guinness.

This is despite the fact that he has played a mere 82 minutes in the last eight Tests, three of which included wins against each southern hemisphere nation.

Garry Ringrose is one of the most exciting talents in world rugby
Garry Ringrose is one of the most exciting talents in world rugby

Hence, the spotlight that may have alighted upon the slight but significantly developing form of Ringrose, who turned 22 last week, was somewhat averted yesterday when his name was called out for the first time by the head coach at an Irish team announcement.

Instead, the 25-minute proceedings were predominantly occupied with players that weren't playing, and who probably won't play, for Ireland in this year's campaign as the debate about the wild geese persists in the absence of Sexton and Joey Carbery.

Talk about flying under the radar. Tomorrow, when he lands, some judgement will call.

"It's probably something I thought I wouldn't get the opportunity to do this soon, to make my debut in the Six Nations," he enthuses. "Excitement is the only thing I'm feeling at the moment.

"I think I'm ready to make the step up, yeah. I got a run-out during the autumn and I got to play a bit more than I would have expected.

Malakai Fekitoa of New Zealand is tackled by Garry Ringrose of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium last month
Malakai Fekitoa of New Zealand is tackled by Garry Ringrose of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium last month

"A few injuries and stuff led to my opportunities. It's a different kettle of fish coming into the Six Nations."

The expectations from without may rise appreciably by the time kick-off approaches - albeit an expected deluge may drown Edinburgh by tomorrow afternoon.

It may not necessarily be a day for a dazzling, dizzying array of the wickedly deceptive footwork that reminds so many of his famous predecessor.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't aware of the expectations," Ringrose admits. "There is an element of just taking it on board and brushing it off really..

"I mean I have only three caps for Ireland so I know I've a lot to learn and ups and downs ahead.

"So it's just trying to learn and get better as much as possible in the now as opposed to being too focused on the future."

Anointed

He has been getting used to it. When O'Driscoll anointed him as the future, urging Schmidt to pick him for the 2016 opener against Wales, Ringrose had to keep his head down and work on the weaknesses only he knew, rather than strengths that everyone else did.

"That (O'Driscoll's tweeted endorsement) was the least of my worries," he says. "I managed to do one or two good things but there were a couple of mistakes I made in the game that were probably glossed over from the outside."

Recent evidence, emerging again in Leinster's Champions Cup draw with Castres, would suggest that some of those weaknesses remain.

"I can improve and hopefully avoid errors I made in that game," he says. "It's never nice messing up. It's how I react and hopefully get better from that."

Very much aware for one so young.

Irish Independent

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