Saturday 24 March 2018

It's unfair to call Garry Ringrose the new me - Brian O'Driscoll

Garry Ringrose Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Garry Ringrose Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

There's plenty to like about the current crop of Irish players - increasing strength in depth, a solid scrum, a tigerish back-row replete with enough wrecking balls to demolish a storefront - but close to the top of the list is the emerging centre partnership of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.

The duo's time spent getting to know each other as players at provincial level is already paying dividends for the national team, with an eye-catching outing in November against Australia buttressed by strong Six Nations showings.

The pair are almost the archetype inside- and outside-centre but it would be doing both men a disservice to say that Henshaw is the brawn and Ringrose the brains.

Sure, the former is regularly utilised as a battering ram while the latter slaloms through opposition defences at will, but equally, Henshaw regularly shows dextrous touches when offloading while his partner has a magnificent sense of when the best time is to shoot out of a defensive line and level an opponent to stymie an attack.

There's no better man to appraise the attributes of Ireland's in-form midfield than Brian O'Driscoll, and interestingly, the Lions legend thinks that despite making the 12 jersey his own, Henshaw can offer Warren Gatland plenty more on this summer's tour to New Zealand.

"It is an aggressive game that Robbie plays," O'Driscoll observed. "He is in an area where there is not much space and he has to get the hard yards for Ireland. I think there is a lot more to Robbie's game as well.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he was selected for the Lions that they look to use him in a 13 role. I think his versatility will act as a positive. He is a very fine player and I know that he has some big admirers on other teams."

Henshaw may well have a future on the channel outside his current station, but the man in possession of O'Driscoll's old green No 13 shirt is increasingly being compared to the man himself.

At this stage of his career, it would heap unfair pressure on the 22-year-old to make grand proclamations about his potential, but it was hard not to think back to the former Ireland captain when Ringrose scorched through the Italian defence in the Stadio Olimpico, evading a host of defenders before dotting down under the posts.

O'Driscoll acknowledges Ringrose's huge upside, but is unwilling to put himself in the odd situation of having to declare a player as the 'next Brian O'Driscoll'.

"Garry is his own player," O'Driscoll reflected. "He does things that I didn't do as well as him and maybe there are some things he'll learn that I learned over the course of my career. It's unfair to compare any two players. People say they see similarities, that's not really for me to say.

"I'm really excited by him, I think he has all the attributes to be a top-class player. He sees the game a little bit earlier than most people. He sees the game unfolding. That's important for young players looking to survive in a pretty attritional game."


O'Driscoll ruled out going into coaching in the near future, with his influence on the game confined to the TV screen for the time being.

It was in that role that he had a prime view of Ireland's comprehensive rout in Rome, with Ringrose in particular impressing as he scored his first Six Nations try.

Ringrose isn't the first player to be dubbed BOD 'Mark II', and the man himself would rather steer clear of the issue.

"It is strange but we live in a world where people love making comparisons between people of the past and current players," O'Driscoll said.

"Every new player comes in and tries to carve out a niche for themselves. I think it is a danger to try to be the 'next' person. You should never put any limitations on how good somebody can be and I wouldn't try to do that."

Brian O'Driscoll was speaking on behalf of Land Rover, a principal partner of the Lions

Irish Independent

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