Friday 24 November 2017

'It’s the least of my worries' - Garry Ringrose focusing on Ireland rather than possible Lions call-up

Ireland's Garry Ringrose poses for a portrait following a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland's Garry Ringrose poses for a portrait following a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Twelve months ago there was a wave of criticism washing over Joe Schmidt for his decision to leave Garry Ringrose out of the squad for the tour to South Africa. The clamour to include him in the Ireland side started pre Six Nations that season, and ran on to summer.

The likelihood was always that Ringrose’s Leinster form would be rewarded later rather than sooner – in the interests of giving him a start when genuinely he was ready.

And that didn’t mean Chicago last November. Instead his debut came a week later, against Canada, and they the All Blacks and Wallabies back to back. With the grand total of eight caps he’s looking like a veteran on this trip.

“It’s a bit of a roller-coaster,” he says of his time since then. “I was involved in all of the Six Nations games which was a big learning experience for me. And then getting a bit of disappointment with Leinster with the way we finished the year. A lot of rugby has been played since November.”

For Ringrose most of it was high quality. Which put him in the Lions shop window. Like the preamble to his Ireland debut the coach in question has opted for caution. That may change if injury alters the picture for Warren Gatland in New Zealand.

“It’s the least of my worries,” Ringrose says, of the possibility of a call-up. “I feel so lucky to go and represent Ireland for the next three weeks against USA and Japan. This time last year I missed out on a summer tour. I appreciate the fact that I’m pretty lucky, from where I have come from last year, to come and play on the summer tour. It wouldn’t be too much of a concern (the Lions). Hopefully we get the matches up on the projector and support the lads that are there.”

Four years ago when the Lions were in Australia and Ireland were playing the US in Houston, Ringrose was burying his head in the books. The Leaving Cert was the only thing on his mind. Now the top priority is to cope with the expected showers and high humidity on Saturday, and get the tour off on the right note.

“Definitely we were preparing for that in our heads last week and the week before. We knew the temperature would be a bit higher and it is quite a bit humid as well. We’ve been training at a high intensity to try and prepare us for when that comes so hopefully it won’t be too much of a shock to us.

“It’s a win at all costs. It’s always the case when you put on the green jersey, you always want to put on the best performance possible, individually and collectively, put the best performance forward and hopefully win. That will be our primary focus, do everything we can preparation-wise to ensure that.”

A little more than a wet week in the job and already he sounds like a veteran. With Ireland short of cover at 10 on Saturday because of Paddy Jackson's absence Ringrose's importance across the middle has just increased. So you understand Simon Easterby when he says he’s hopeful the clean bill of health extends to team selection, and match day – including no phonecalls from New Zealand. Keeping Ringrose must be top of his wishlist.

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