OF THE RETURNING first-choice starters for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland this weekend, none are arguably more important to the collective than the fit-again Garry Ringrose, who brings so much to the backline on both sides of the ball.
Having started the opening-weekend defeat to England, the Leinster centre was frustrated to sit out away wins over Scotland and Italy with a hamstring injury, but slots straight back into Schmidt’s midfield for Sunday’s visit of France.
Ringrose speaking to media at Carton House today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
In the continued absence of Robbie Henshaw, Ringrose renews his partnership with the ever-present Bundee Aki to win his 19th international cap, and just his second against the French.
It is a welcome return to the side for the 24-year-old, and indeed a major fillip for Schmidt with Ringrose’s creativity and intelligence with the ball exactly what Ireland’s attack needs, while his defensive nous will be key for the final two rounds of the championship.
“To be honest, it’s still pretty surreal,” he says of pulling on the green jersey after a couple of weeks on the sideline rehabbing his hamstring after 72 minutes of action against England.
“I’d never take the opportunity I’m given for granted.
“There’s always a pinch yourself moment when you’re out there, goosebumps when you go out at the Aviva to play in front of your family and friends and alongside guys you’ve looked up to.”
Even in the relatively early days of his international career, so much revolves around Ringrose, his prodigious talent seeing him develop into a key cog in Schmidt’s wheel having become a lynchpin in the 13 jersey for Leinster.
“I’d be nervous going into any game, to be honest, because you want to deliver your best and you want to go and win,” he continues.
“I can’t speak for other individuals but it’s human nature that you’re nervous going into a big Test, but that’s a good thing because it brings the best out of you and it shows and proves to yourself that it means something and you care.
“Everyone is excited to get back and try to right that wrong [from England] against what’s going to be an incredibly tough French side. Everyone is excited and motivated and obviously, the 23 that are playing feel lucky to be involved because there’s a lot of competition as well to be out there. An excited, motivated Ireland team is turning up, I think.”
After England’s aggressive linespeed suffocated Ireland in midfield and forced the hosts into mistakes, France will be intent on doing the same this weekend, the supremely talented Gael Fickou central to that.
Ringrose is fit again after a hamstring injury. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Restored by Jacques Brunel against Scotland last time, the 24-year-old already has a wealth of international experience — he will win his 45th cap in Dublin — and carries a double-edged threat, his pace and power making him a menacing opponent.
His midfield match-up with Ringrose and Aki will be intriguing.
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“On attack, he is a big man and has a serious turn of pace,” Ringrose smiles.
“He has beaten lads on the outside, and, having played on the wing, he has proved he is fast enough, but then equally, he is really good at stepping in and taking your inside shoulder.
“He might fake the outside and step back in, which is always a challenge at 13 to defend that, especially someone of his size and his pace and his hand off. It’s a massive challenge for me.”
He adds: “I think he was a year ahead of me and went straight to seniors, so I never played against him. But he is pretty freakish, someone that size who can be a battering ram when he wants, just bust tackles. And he has the gas to take guys on the outside as well. It’s pretty scary.”
A mighty challenge for Ringrose and Ireland.
“Everyone out there wants to win and do their best,” the former Blackrock College man says.
“Everyone out there is trying, that’s kind of something that can’t be forgotten about — everyone is giving their everything for their country because it’s such a special opportunity to be able to represent your country.”
Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.
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