Saturday 24 February 2018

Ringrose is ready, willing and very able

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose tackles Gavin Evans of Cardiff Blues during their Pro 12 clash
Leinster’s Garry Ringrose tackles Gavin Evans of Cardiff Blues during their Pro 12 clash
Having made an impressive debut, Garry Ringrose is hoping to push on in a Leinster shirt

Marcus Ó Buachalla

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Or it certainly wasn't supposed to be a debut on a sunny day in the RDS. But Garry Ringrose was happy to wait for it and another week of training and fine-tuning wouldn't do him any harm.

"I suppose I was training a bit with Matt last season and then was named in one of the extended match-day squads so all the while you feel like you are making progress but then to be named on the bench for the opening game of this season by Leo, it's kind of the pinch-yourself moment. But very quickly you snap out of it and start getting your head around what is expected of you."

And get his head around it he most certainly did. On a dark, windy and miserable night in Meggetland, the stage was set for the former Blackrock College student to make his mark as a replacement. But on the bench he stayed as he watched Royce Burke-Flynn and Ross Byrne make debuts instead. His dad had even travelled but not to be.

"I suppose in a way it's frustrating but you also appreciate the narrative of the game and how the lads were going. There is no point making a change for the sake of it. So I did my fitness post-match with Dan Tobin and just put the head down again in training hoping to get another chance."


His chance came a week later and he couldn't have wished for a better one. Over 13,000 in the RDS on a sunny day. Miles away from the rain in Meggetland. If being named on the bench was 'pinch-yourself' territory, what of being named to start?

"It's funny because I wasn't pulled aside or anything like that. You find out like everyone else. In the team room. So I suppose in a way I was shocked, I was excited but then like I said you start getting your head around your role."

That is all well and good. But this is different. This is a starting jersey in the RDS for your debut. No ifs. No buts. Come 5.15pm you're in.

"That is very true! I suppose my first reaction was to tell my parents so I sent a text more or less straight away and then first chance I got later I was on the phone to them. My dad had travelled over the week before to Edinburgh so it was nice that they would both now be there and also extended family as well. And then once I had that out of the way I was keen to chat to the other lads and everyone said the same thing. To try to go through your routine like you would any other game. Easily said!"

He admits a preference for playing in the centre. It's where he made a name for himself with the Irish U-20s and indeed the position that saw him shortlisted for an U-20 World Player of the Year nomination in 2014. Happiest at 13 and also happy with the kicking duties, nonetheless he enjoyed his sojourn on the wing.

"I've played there a bit already with the Leinster 'A's and I suppose Girvan (Dempsey) would have been very familiar with what I could bring to the jersey from those games.

"To be honest, I don't see it as being that different to playing in the centre. The main differences I suppose are the fielding and the returns. But I enjoy that element to the game and I didn't see my playing on the wing as being away from the action in any way. I was hungry for the ball and overall I was happy with how the game went. But I would credit hugely the lads around me.

"The likes of Fergus (McFadden) and Ben (Te'o) and Noel (Reid) they were brilliant. Always talking you through things. Then of course Isa Nacewa at full-back. It's hard to describe the calm that he brings to things and the clarity."

Cap number one is safely tucked away. The record books will show that he is Leinster player number 1,238. The next task is adding to the tally. The Dragons are next up tomorrow week in the RDS.

"I don't want to rest on my laurels of course I don't. But I amn't foolish either. It's a new game and a new challenge so the coaches might want to go after it in a completely different manner.

"I am now just fully focused on putting myself in the frame for the Dragons game and you hope that you give Leo and the coaches a headache because there is huge competition there in the centre and on the wings. That is only going to get worse when the lads return from the World Cup so you have to make this window count."

Like everyone else, he is glued to goings-on in England, urging his provincial team-mates on while also being absorbed by the thrills and spills of results like the Japanese over the Springboks. A welcome distraction from the constant search for the next opportunity. And the lectures.

As part of the Leinster Rugby Academy programme, Academy players must also study and Ringrose is in his third year of a Business and Legal Studies degree in UCD. Not an easy mix.

"It is difficult to balance but I think it's hugely important too. You never know what's around the corner do you? So I am getting through it as best as I can. You do get great support and you are able to spread out your modules a little more but I'm like everyone else sitting the course. I'll have the same exams to pass as everyone else."


He certainly didn't think Kevin McLaughlin's retirement was around the corner but there it was on Monday morning.

"It came as a shock to us all when it was announced. I suppose it is all well and good people talking to you and advising you of a Plan B but there was our club captain having to walk away from the game he loves. Kevin has himself studied and thankfully he is in a good place but nobody wants to think of Plan B really until you have to. But at least that option is there for us as part of the Academy programme and that's a huge credit to Leinster."

As Leinster player #1,238 looks to kick on, he does so having seen the other sobering side of professional sport at first hand this week. Player #1,141. His former captain. An Irish international with 115 Leinster caps. Gone.

"Kevin is a brilliant player and captain and has definitely been one of the leaders during my short time here. He would know when to drive you on but that's what was great about him.

"Always knew what was needed and when it needed to be said. He'll be sorely missed."

Irish Independent

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