Sunday 27 May 2018

Ringrose weaves his magic to bring fresh dynamic to attack

Cian Healy in action during the victory against Scotland. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Cian Healy in action during the victory against Scotland. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The effortlessness with which Garry Ringrose's quicksilver feet glide across the Lansdowne Road turf brings a collective sense of awe around the stadium.

Whether it was in attack or defence, supporters were left in no doubt that what they were witnessing was a special performance from a truly special talent.

To put Ringrose's outstanding display into context, it is important to remind ourselves of a couple of facts.

Having undergone shoulder surgery last summer, this was just the 23-year old's seventh start of the season, his first for Ireland and his second since returning from an ankle operation.

Both spells on the sidelines have allowed Ringrose to work on other areas of his game and while he has added bulk to his frame, he doesn't intend to add much more - for to do so could hinder what makes him stand out from the rest.

Opportunity

"It's certainly not the kind of player I am, being an overly big one," Ringrose said afterwards.

"So still trying to get skills sessions in was the main focus and then when I got the opportunity, to work on my fitness and strength stuff.

"Someone like Keith Earls is an inspiration for me, he's not the biggest guy, but he's one of the most effective on the pitch.

"I wouldn't get too distracted by the number on a weighing scales. It's a combination of loads of different things but it adds to a complete player, so I was just trying to tick off as much as I could within the parameters."

Ringrose's ability to drop his shoulder and step off both feet bamboozled Huw Jones all afternoon and given that the talented Scottish centre was one of the biggest threats to Ireland, his opposite number ruthlessly exposed his weaknesses.

It wasn't a perfect performance, but having played so little rugby, particularly at this level, a couple of slight defensive misreads are forgivable.

Ireland's defence on the fringes was much improved and while they were grateful for Scotland butchering a couple of glorious opportunities, Ringrose's intelligence and spatial awareness was very noticeable.

"Initially, I was a bit nervous filling in for Chris (Farrell) and Robbie (Henshaw), they'd had world-class performances," he maintained.

"Talking to Bundee (Aki) beforehand, we knew they've got some pretty special individuals and they caused us troubles, so it was about backing each other up and how we reacted.

"If I was beaten, how he covered me and vice versa. I think it was evident and you could feel out there how hard we were working for each other."

England await this weekend and for Ringrose the mouthwatering showdown will be an entirely new experience.

The former Blackrock College student has never even been in Twickenham before, let alone played there, and almost as if to hammer home his youthful exuberance, Ringrose reminds us that he was in second year in school when Ireland last won the Grand Slam in 2009.

Not much fazes him, however, and his big game temperament is far beyond his years. It's easy to see why Joe Schmidt trusts him so much, not only to start in such a crucial clash with a lack of game time, but also to base a lot of his power plays around him.

The Kiwi has spoken at length about how much of a leader Ringrose was on last summer's tour to USA and Japan, and also the growth he saw in him.

Ringrose's tendency to play first receiver not only gave Johnny Sexton a welcome hand, but it also brought a fresh cutting edge to Ireland's attack.

He might have played Sexton in for a try after a brilliant move off a scrum just shy of the 26th minute, but often when you haven't stretched the legs like that in a while you back yourself.

"I made a line-break and could have done with passing to Johnny inside me," Ringrose acknowledged.

"He let me know, but I knew myself. It had been a few months since I'd made a break like that, so it's nice and reassuring when things come off like that.

"It's pretty special to have that (Schmidt's) trust. The work that had gone by the centres before, as I was saying, I was quite nervous.

"I suppose it wasn't loo long since I was over in Japan and playing with the team. The systems are pretty similar, I know the calls and stuff. I was able to hit the ground running.

"I can't really take too much credit considering I'm playing beside Johnny and Bundee. It makes it a lot easier for me."

Ringrose's team-mates would certainly say the same about him.

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