Saturday 21 September 2019

Cian Tracey: ''Under-rated' Ringrose is now a leader as well as a key man'

'Some of the things that Ringrose did, with and without the ball, against the USA on Saturday were sensational.' Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
'Some of the things that Ringrose did, with and without the ball, against the USA on Saturday were sensational.' Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

November has proven to be a very important month for Garry Ringrose in more ways than one. On one hand, he ended what little debate there was that he is Ireland's undisputed first-choice outside-centre; it is now merely a case of who plays alongside him - Robbie Henshaw or Bundee Aki.

On the other, Ringrose has taken on much more responsibility than he has done in the past and is quickly becoming a real leader for Ireland.

For the week in Chicago, Joe Schmidt instructed the 23-year old to lead more of the sessions with the backs. The Ireland head coach did the same last week and while it was perhaps a surprise that Ringrose was included against USA, it was easy to understand Schmidt's thinking.

Some of the things that Ringrose did, both with and without the ball at the weekend, were sensational.

The ease with which the Leinster centre glides across the turf with the ball in two hands is a sight to behold and right now, he is one of the most exciting players in the world to watch.

There was a moment early in the game that illustrated just how much of a leader Ringrose is becoming.

Ireland had just conceded what Schmidt would have viewed as a really soft try off a lineout down the short side and just as Johnny Sexton so often is, Ringrose became Schmidt's voice on the field.

He beckoned the whole team under the posts as USA were lining up the conversion, and judging from his facial expression and gestures, one can only assume that Ringrose read the riot act.

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Off the pitch, he is quiet, unassuming and modest, but Schmidt will have been delighted to see a bit more bite in his vocal approach.

This is exactly why Schmidt decided to play Ringrose against Italy and USA - because he wanted him to find his voice for the long road ahead.

Ross Byrne has played with him for a few years, and it was fascinating to get a team-mate's perspective on what Ringrose brings in terms of the unseen work.

"His knowledge probably goes a little bit under the radar," Byrne said.

"His talk outside is incredibly important. He probably doesn't get the credit he deserves on defence and attack. His communication, it's crucial.

"He's definitely coming into his own. His understanding of the game is right up there. The more he expresses himself that way the better for everyone."

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Ringrose is that he is still only 23. Observing how much more he develops over the coming years will be fascinating to watch.

Squeaky-clean discipline remains a hallmark of success

There have been plenty of positive aspects from the November series and chief among them has been how Ireland remain the standard-setters in terms of their discipline.

Schmidt's sides have forged a fine reputation, which referees are now well aware of, and that will invariably benefit Ireland going forward.

Over the four games this month, Ireland conceded 19 penalties, an average of 4.75, which is hugely impressive.

What makes it even more so is how aggressive Andy Farrell's defensive system is, but behind the scenes, Schmidt's training sessions are renowned for not standing for any sort of sloppy penalty concessions.

Talent pool deepens even further

In coming off the bench on Saturday, Sammy Arnold became the 37th player that Schmidt has handed a debut to since the 2015 World Cup.

All 42 players who were named in the initial squad for this month's games saw game time as the challenge to have three high-quality players in every position continues.

Schmidt won't get the chance to experiment as much until next summer's World Cup warm-up games but there is no doubt that he will have a clearer picture about certain players as the focus shifts towards Japan.

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