Sunday 18 August 2019

Ringrose counting on painful memories of final defeat to drive him on at the World Cup

Ireland centre, and Audi ambassador, Garry Ringrose is facing into a crucial time as the squad prepares for the World Cup, starting with Saturday’s clash with Italy
Ireland centre, and Audi ambassador, Garry Ringrose is facing into a crucial time as the squad prepares for the World Cup, starting with Saturday’s clash with Italy

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

At some stage during the short end-of-season break, Garry Ringrose found himself sitting on a sun-lounger flicking through footage of one of his schools games on YouTube.

The match in question saw his Blackrock College team take on a St Michael's College side featuring a young James Ryan in the annual friendly between the two powerhouses.

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Apart from laughing at Ryan's overly enthusiastic attempts to charge down his penalty-kick at goal, Ringrose was struck by the freedom of it all. The smaller body shapes, the on-the-fly decision making, the instinctiveness.

It made a pleasant change from the usual process of reviewing footage the uber-professional 24-year-old goes through as he picks apart his performance as he strives to improve.

"I was laughing watching it because I didn't have a clue what I was doing," he says with typical modesty and a broad smile.

The footage provided light relief for a player still processing the biggest disappointment of a short but illustrious career.

Losing the Champions Cup final to Saracens hit Ringrose hard.

"The final was probably one of the worst days I've been involved in. The worst I've ever felt after a game for as long as I can remember," he recalls.

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"Two teams get to the final, only one can win it and we were on the right side of that last year and the wrong side this year.

"It's only the days and the weeks after it that you (realise you) can't win everything, things can go poorly and that individually I can play badly.

"So, you do try and learn and we dissected the game, as painful as it was, take the learnings and the way they approached it, the way they approached certain situations and what we could have done differently. What I could have done to impact on the game..."

Instantly, the mind flashes back to the moment, early in the second-half of the St James' Park clash with the game in the balance, when the centre chose to ignore the support outside him and instead tucked the ball and ran into a field of bodies. He's gone over it time and again in his head.

"There's no excuse, 100pc if I could rewind the clock I'd make the pass 100 times out of 100," he reflects.

"But you can't make the right decision every time. I was pretty hard on myself afterwards, it was that and other moments that maybe weren't noticed.

"Thinking back to the time, I didn't make a conscious decision not to pass. Just instinctively, the ball popped out and I just took it on."

Even when he speaks, Ringrose comes across as a wise head on young shoulders, but he is still growing into his role and has plenty of scope to get even better.

And he is hoping that he can bank the tough experiences to come back stronger so that if he's presented with a similar scenario in a big game in the coming months he'll make a better decision.

"It's learning in those pressure moments to have that awareness that the best players in the world have to make the right decisions at the right times in big moments," he shrugs.

"That's just one wrong decision and you have to learn.

"Every game I've played there's stuff you did well and stuff you did poorly. It's never nice seeing stuff you did wrong, but that's how you learn.

"Nobody plays a perfect game, you're constantly trying to learn from what you did right and wrong and that was just another one of those.

"It's so competitive that you just try and learn to get better. There's so many different variables.

"You don't want to psychoanalyse it too much, but you just try to learn from every outing."

Ringrose has a new target in his sights; not that he'd be one to start shouting from the rooftops about what Ireland can achieve in Japan.

Unfailingly polite to the point where he apologised for letting slip an inoffensive curse word in the course of the interview, the Dubliner is one of the key players in Joe Schmidt's squad as they ramp up their World Cup preparations with Saturday's first warm-up game against Italy.

He's enjoyed the pre-season work and the novelty of spending so much time in the Irish set-up, but all that training had a purpose.

"I saw a good quote from Ronan O'Gara: 'You don't want to be someone who trains like Tarzan and plays like Jane'," he says.

"It's the awareness that the whole purpose of training is to be ready for the match. To never lose focus.

"You're aiming to try and be the best version of yourself from an individual perspective and collectively.

"It's a cool opportunity, you can get a really good week's training in. You're not getting a knock from Saturday, managing one element of running, strength work or pitch work - you can just attack everything."

After stints in Galway, Limerick and Blanchardstown, Ireland are back in their normal Kildare base this week and everyone is acutely aware of the realities of the squad selection.

Ringrose says it's bringing out the competitive nature in all 45 players.

"Everyone has an awareness that unfortunately only 31 can go and there's 45 of us at the moment," he says. "There's a good camaraderie in the group, everyone gets on and enjoys the environment. It's the same at the provinces, there's always a competitive edge. Training hard, working hard, trying to grow as a player in all aspects.

"One part of you is looking towards selection, another part is looking towards the common goal of going to the World Cup. It has been said that the 45 will become the 31, but there'll be an injury or two or three, there's an expectation that the 45 and more should be ready."

Barring disaster, Ringrose will be on that plane and he's ready to put the harsh lessons he learnt at the end of last season to good use.

Garry Ringrose is an Audi Ireland ambassador

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