Garry Ringrose left a frustrating, injury-affected season behind him by delivering an outstanding display against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A convincing 28-8 victory has put Ireland on the brink of a third Grand Slam in their history, while England’s subsequent defeat to France confirmed a third Six Nations title for the Irish team in the space of five years.
Garry Ringrose made a timely return to full fitness following injuries to Ireland’s most recent starting outside centres, Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell. There was a worry that he might be off the pace after lengthy spells on the sidelines due to shoulder and ankle operations. However, a series of rigorous training sessions primed the talented 23-year-old for his 2018 international bow.
“I tried not to get too concerned about it. Thankfully, I got a good few training minutes under my belt in the last few weeks and was in (camp) even before that as well. I was able to take confidence from that as well and Joe (Schmidt) works us pretty hard in training, so I didn’t have to get too worried about fitness,” said Ringrose.
“I was sucking diesel a couple of times out there but playing alongside Bundee (Aki), he makes my job that bit easier. As well as Earlsy (Keith Earls) and Jacob (Stockdale) on the wings. I was happy with the win.”
Ringrose was Aki’s third different centre partner in as many games – it is four if you include Earls’ brief stint there during the victory over Italy. The Leinster ace’s last appearance in the green jersey, back in June during last year’s summer tour, preceded Aki’s Ireland debut against South Africa almost five months later.
However, as Ringrose explains, he developed a strong understanding with the Connacht star prior to their first game together in the Irish midfield. “Luckily, I had been training in the last couple of weeks and that pays off when you’re training at such a high intensity. There’s such a good squad there and you have quality playing against you,” explained the Dubliner.
“It’s a team effort and certainly as a back-line, we’d meet together and try and fix things together from training each day. Playing alongside Bundee, I know he’s a physical guy but he’s got the skills to back it up and he’s incredibly intelligent off the pitch.
“We’d try to have any sort of conversations we could have alongside Johnny (Sexton) and Rob (Kearney) and the wingers as well. There was certainly patches and I made a couple of mistakes in training and thankfully we managed to iron them out when it came to today.”
He added: “Initially, I was a little bit nervous filling in for Chris and Robbie, with how good they’d been – they’d had world class performances between them – but then it was just about fitting in and getting my role in the system right.
“Talking to Bundee beforehand, we knew Scotland have got some pretty special individuals out there and they probably caused us trouble, 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.”
For Ringrose and the rest of the Ireland squad, rest and recovery will be the main focus now before they begin to build for the final round showdown with last year’s champions England at Twickenham next Saturday (kick-off 2.45pm).
Only a second year pupil in Blackrock College when Ireland last claimed a Grand Slam in 2009, Ringrose admits a fifth consecutive Championship victory in London would complete a momentous campaign for Schmidt’s supercharged side.
“It would be pretty special for myself and everyone involved. I’m trying not to get too distracted about what’s at stake next week, and focus on the immediate and what’s in control. That’s recovering and being fresh and ready to go on Monday and taking each day and trying to win each day.
“I was in second year in school (for the 2009 Grand Slam). I think I just watched it with my family. It would be amazing to be part of something like that, but there is no point getting too distracted – certainly from my point of view and what seems to be the group’s point of view.”