Tuesday 11 December 2018

'It was disappointing not being involved in November but I didn't really over-think it' - Returning Ringrose still calm about Irish prospects

Garry Ringrose is ready for challenge of regaining place on Ireland team. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Garry Ringrose is ready for challenge of regaining place on Ireland team. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

During last season's Six Nations championship, Joe Schmidt either chose or was compelled to alter every line of his side during the five-match campaign.

All except one.

Throughout the pack - front, second and back-rows - at half-back and in the back-three, either through circumstance or choice, the side remained fluid throughout the ultimately doomed title tilt.

However, the midfield partnership of Leinster duo Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, fresh from their early-season unveiling at province and country, remained unchanged.

Indeed, along with the ever-present CJ Stander, greenhorn Ringrose featured for every minute of the championship.

There were hints that he might be supplanted mid-campaign when Ulsterman Jared Payne returned from injury but he resisted the claims. However, his notable missed-tackle rate - with eight, he was most culpable, with Henshaw (6) close behind - showed his diamond debut campaign was not without flaw.

The pairing were broken up when Henshaw went south for the Lions while the younger man went east to Japan before a shoulder injury would then eliminate Ringrose from the November series.

And so, a month out from Ireland's opening Test in Paris against the hapless, rudderless French, there is no guarantee that the partnership will be reunited in the spring.

Indeed, some observers espied enough evidence from last Monday's tussle with Bundee Aki to interpret that the Connacht man will retain his berth when Schmidt names his squad for the opener.

The Irish brains trust will do more than merely crunch numbers but the stats weighed heavily in Aki's favour.

He saw three times as much ball as his opposite number and hence beat eight defenders to Ringrose's two and, although the Leinster man edged the tackle count (11-10), he also was slightly less effective in making them (three missed tackles to Aki's two).

Whatever about the naked eyes of outsiders and those who may already have their mind made up, Ringrose remains sanguine about his current form and potential prospects in green after his bruising battle with Aki.

"It was disappointing not being involved in November but I didn't really over-think it," says a player whose innate gift is not to over-think, just play.

"The inner fan came out in me in November and I was pretty excited to watch the lads play so well and get a few cracking wins. I am just happy to be back in the Leinster shirt.

"Monday was a physical game and whether I was coming back from a shoulder injury or not, I think it is pretty difficult to deal with Bundee on any given day.

"He proved his quality along with Tom Farrell in the centre. He certainly made it tough for myself, Noel Reid and Rory O'Loughlin.

"There were a couple of learnings from the game but hopefully now it's nice to be in for the next day, get the analysis done, go out to training and work on them again.

"It was a tough game; they came all guns blazing and brought a lot of line-speed in defence. They made life difficult for us at times.

"I sat a little bit deeper and tucked a bit tighter to get to the edge. I'm working hard and delighted to get another opportunity at the weekend against Ulster.

"The Munster game was such a good win so I was pretty keen to get out and try and get another win in a Leinster jersey.

I haven't really over-thought my form to be honest. I have managed to get a good bit of training under my belt. Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen make the training sessions pretty tough and put you under pressure.

"It just about trying to apply what we have talked about in training in a match. I think there were a couple of things I could have done personally and we could have done a bit better."

Getting into the Ireland team for the Six Nations was hard enough; staying there quite a different matter.

"It's pretty difficult to get there with the competition here and throughout Ireland. Then even to stay there with injuries, change in form and guys coming in and out, it's never easy.

"I know a lot of the opportunities I got last year were the result of injuries to guys ahead of me at the time.

"I don't think you ever get comfortable when you are there but getting there in the first place is pretty tricky but staying there is also pretty tough to be honest."

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