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Ringrose Reflects On ‘One Of The Best And Most Intense Weeks’

Ringrose Reflects On ‘One Of The Best And Most Intense Weeks’

Fit-again centre Garry Ringrose praised the strength in depth of the Irish midfield ranks after playing a significant role in Saturday’s Grand Slam-clinching victory over England at Twickenham.

Garry Ringrose experienced the full gamut of emotions over the course of the NatWest 6 Nations Championship. An ankle injury that required surgery in January had put his involvement in the tournament in jeopardy, and he watched Jonathan Sexton’s drop goal heroics against France from the Bridge pub alongside some of Leinster team-mates.

However, the 23-year-old’s recent return to fitness came at just the right time for Ireland as injuries to Robbie Henshaw (shoulder) and Chris Farrell (ACL) depleted the centre stocks that were already missing long-term absentee Jared Payne.

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Ringrose had to quickly strike up a cohesive centre partnership with Connacht star Bundee Aki for the concluding games against Scotland and England, with Ringrose also having newcomer Jordan Larmour alongside him for the final 25 minutes at Twickenham.

Asked afterwards about stepping in for Henshaw and Farrell and the competition for places, he said: “It’s amazing position to be in as a country, considering there’s five or six guys, if not more, between all the provinces who have been battling it out for the 12 and 13 jerseys – with a lot of guys capable of playing both numbers. There was some incredible work put in by Robbie and then Chris in the earlier rounds, and then for me it was just about trying to match that.

“I’m well aware that I’m incredibly lucky to be in the position that I am, off the back of Robbie and Chris’ injuries. I know if they hadn’t picked them up that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am. I won’t forget how lucky I am.

“I know from my point of view, and talking to the coaching team, that it was about coming in and trying to fit in rather than trying to knock the lights out in any way, shape or form. Just build on the foundations that the other lads had put in. Thankfully I had Japan (in the summer) and even just a couple of weeks’ training, because it was on the break, to come in and train and get confidence from that.”

To get up to speed so quickly and have some big moments in both matches – an assist against Scotland and his opening try at Twickenham – is testament to Ringrose’s all-round quality as a player. All on the back of only 54 minutes of PRO14 rugby for Leinster in the preceding eight weeks, and a total of six appearances for Leinster in an injury-disrupted season.

He acknowledged: “The medical team at Leinster certainly had a tough old time between my shoulders and my ankle, so Dermot Brennan, who the main guy I was working with, put in a ton of work to try and get me to where I am today. Without the work of himself and others behind him, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Ringrose said it was ‘certainly one of the best weeks and most intense weeks that I’ve been involved in’ as he reflected on the build-up to the Grand Slam decider, the team’s approach and what it meant to celebrate the clean sweep with his loved ones.

“It is pretty insane (to win the Grand Slam). Even thinking back to what Johnny (Sexton) said early on in the week. When he was in this position a couple of years ago, he had to wait nine or ten-odd years to get another crack at it.

“That kinda hit home with me, that I’d be 32 or 33 to be in this position again – obviously ideally before then – applying his circumstances to the situation. There was all the external stuff like St. Patrick’s Day and Twickenham. From my point of view, the week that was in it was trying to forget about that, and it was just another game.

“As tough as the opposition were, it was just about us and trying to deliver on the basics as much as possible. There will still be a couple of things that stand out as wrong-doings but for the most part, we can’t complain really having won it. The lap of honour was pretty special. My parents were over and my girlfriend was over, so it was nice to share the moment with them as well as the lads.”

The young Dubliner has made a welcome habit out of scoring in away Tests, with the last four of his five international tries coming in Rome, Shizuoka, Tokyo and London. Saturday’s one was an opportunist score from a Sexton aerial bomb, just five minutes in, and typically he was modest about his involvement in it.

“It was a bit fortuitous and Rob (Kearney) did incredibly well to get up and make the contest tricky for Anthony Watson underneath (the kick). I was just lucky I managed to pick up the scraps,” conceded Ringrose, who was sporting quite a shiner after such a bruising battle between the old rivals.

He enjoyed his second outing in tandem with Aki, the pair outplaying the English duo of Ben Te’o, a former colleague of Ringrose’s at Leinster, and Jonathan Joseph. It was one of his current provincial team-mates who took the plaudits for his involvement in the break that led to CJ Stander’s second try for Ireland.

“Yeah, we had run it a couple of times in training and Tadhg (Furlong) defies the logic for a tighthead with how mobile he is and also the deft skills he has. I knew I was chasing on the outside of Bundee who did exceptionally well to get it inside to CJ and then it was a pretty intelligent finish against the post,” the UCD clubman recalls of the 23rd-minute score.

With Sexton, Aki and Ringrose gelling well together as an 10-12-13 axis, it was no surprise to see Ireland keep England to just a single try while the trio were on the pitch. Asked about the collective effort in defence, the latter noted: “It certainly helped with Bundee and the wingers in there…and Rob I thought was exceptional as well. It was pretty tough coming against the centres that England have, and then Owen (Farrell) moving to 12 when George (Ford) came on, so we knew we’d have our work cut out for us.

“It was actually kinda similar to Scotland last week in that we knew that they’ve got the individual flair to beat you one-on-one but it was how we could kinda back each other up. They made a few line-breaks which won’t be pretty when we look at the video, but I think we were able to back each other up and just about hold them out.”

Having only turned 23 in January, Ringrose is part of the younger crop of players who have experienced Grand Slam glory in the early stages of their Ireland careers. Larmour only played for the Ireland Under-20s just last year, while Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan and Andrew Porter were runners-up with Ireland at the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship. Ringrose played alongside Stockdale in the Ireland U-20 back-line the previous season.

The big Ulster winger’s prolific form saw him set a new record for the most tries (seven) in a single Six Nations Championship, and he has also been shortlisted for Player of the Championship. Ringrose agreed: “Jacob has a knack of scoring, alright! He’s been exceptional. For myself, playing with him at 20s in his first year, it comes as no surprise how good he’s been for Ireland Under-20s, for Ulster, to now with Ireland. It makes my job that bit easier, just get him the ball and he seems to do the rest.”