Saturday 17 August 2019

'My grandparents got a bit more enjoyment out of it than I did' - Garry Ringrose defuses Ireland hype machine

'My grandparents got more enjoyment out of it than I did'

Garry Ringrose, Josh van der Flier and Ross Molony at Donnybrook Stadium to mark the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby School of Excellence which will be held in The King’s Hospital School in July and August. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Garry Ringrose, Josh van der Flier and Ross Molony at Donnybrook Stadium to mark the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby School of Excellence which will be held in The King’s Hospital School in July and August. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

You can easily trace the hype to the reverse fixture of this weekend's inter-provincial derby in Thomond Park.

And the belief of it to the fidgety fingers of Brian O'Driscoll as he watched the latest of his anointed successors, Garry Ringrose, spear through the Munster midfield to create the first try of an impressive romp for Isa Nacewa.

The World Cup period had seen Ireland indulge in a different sense of hype; undone by Argentina, Joe Schmidt's men needed an urgent reboot and his one-time talisman tweeted his giddy approbation.

Despite being only 21, and fresh from college exams that week, Ringrose was apparently the future now as Ireland attempted to forget their immediate past.

"I think my grandparents got a bit more enjoyment out of it than I did!" beams the centre.

Nearly four months on, the campaign has stalled somewhat, despite occasionally cacophonous catcalls from the bleachers, and Ringrose has steadily accumulated more mileage in a blue shirt.

12 March 2016; Jared Payne, left, is congratulated by his Ireland team-mates Robbie Henshaw, centre, and Andrew Trimble, right, after scoring his side's fifth try. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v Italy. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw have firmed their midfield partnership for Ireland; with the latter heading east next season, Ringrose's next challenge, perhaps, will be to ensure Luke Fitzgerald doesn't thieve his spot.

If it has all seemed like it's happened very quickly, a glance at Josh van der Flier, the team-mate who has stunningly announced himself as a verified international of late, can also bring cause for pause.

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"I'm certainly not envious of him," he smiles, sitting in the Bective clubhouse to support the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby School of Excellence.

"I've nothing but support for Josh and the work he's put in on and off the pitch and he deserved the opportunity that he got. He's shown how as a young player how you can progress and what it takes.

"I'd certainly be looking to see what he's doing and emulate that."

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt speaks to his players ahead of the game

The testimonials of former players - Shane Horgan reportedly said that by selecting Ringrose, Ireland could conceivably change the way they play - remain muted to Schmidt's ears and, encouragingly, Ringrose's too.

"I didn't actually hear that," the 21-year-old politely demurs. "But after watching the Italian game and the Scottish game I feel Ireland are trying and executing an enjoyable brand of rugby to watch.

"They were unlucky in the first two games, they came out the wrong side of results early on but redeemed themselves and showed what they were capable of towards the end.

"I just kind of focus on, as much as possible, the opinions of coaches and then the senior players at Leinster, try to keep the feet to the ground and not look to far ahead, just focus on each week and each game."

Schmidt's counsel is what matters too; just as Leinster-bound Henshaw shadowed the master O'Driscoll for a full season before graduating to full international honours, Ringrose has been placed beneath the Carton House petri dish for careful cultivation.

Notably, there was no room for Gordon D’Arcy, who has been ousted as Ireland’s primary first centre by Robbie Henshaw since O’Driscoll’s retirement just over a year ago

Indeed, he says that Gordon D'Arcy proved to be just as influential a tutor in his final months with the club.

Ringrose, though, is blithely indifferent about whether or not promotion should be summary. Asked if he has booked a holiday in June, when Ireland tour South Africa, he again balks good-naturedly.

"To be honest, it's the least of my worries at the moment. I kind of haven't really been thinking that far ahead, just been focusing on each game as it comes and focusing on Munster now this weekend.

"Joe has let me know where I stand. He would have encouraged me to relish any opportunity I get with Leinster and he's very supportive of certain things and pitched areas that needed improving.

"He would have coached a lot of the senior players at Leinster. And he would have close contact with the coaches there.

"So he said to use them as tools to improve as much as possible, go from there and focus on that.

"Listen, it was pretty cool to go into Ireland camp. It is always a great insight to what it takes to get to that level. Rubbing shoulders with the best players in Ireland, centres and wingers, for me personally was pretty cool; seeing how they train and play is a good experience."

There will be nothing so gentle as rubbing shoulders this weekend, even if he is one of the few players around who seeks to evade, rather than smash straight into them; a lack of physicality has been posited as a reason why he didn't emerge during the crash, bang and wallop adventure that is the Six Nations.

"I suppose it has definitely been a step up," he says. "I feel I've certainly managed it okay, but there are several other attributes that I'd be looking to improve across the board. I wouldn't just narrow in on size and physicality."

And he will leave the hype to others.

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