Six Nations analysis: Garry Ringrose breaks down big defensive moments vs Wales

Ireland centre looking forward to continuing centre partnership with Stuart McCloskey

Garry Ringrose left an indelible mark on Wales outhalf Dan Biggar, both literally and figuratively, in the form of a couple of tackles during Ireland’s 34-10 victory at the Principality stadium.

The first was a rib tickler, a phrase that invites a chuckle for all bar the recipient, in this case Biggar, who probably made a sound like a deflated whoopee cushion as the air left his body. Once he had regained sufficient oxygen to roll from his back to his knees and eventually regain his feet under the watchful gaze of the Welsh medical team, he offered Ringrose a thumbs up. Game recognised game.

The second time that Biggar had regret to be coursed by the Irish centre was when the Welsh outhalf was cut down from behind as he briefly surveyed a try scoring opportunity. Ringrose was asked about the two incidents, which he modestly downplayed as is his want, before offering a thoughtful appraisal of the two moments.

Having taken a snapshot in his mind’s eye, aware that Stuart McCloskey and James Lowe were reasonably well placed outside him, and that Biggar’s body shape betrayed the intended recipient of the pass, Ringrose accelerated into contact.


He said: “As he released it gave me a licence to go and try and hit him. I could have gone a bit quicker and ideally, he wouldn’t have got the ball away but, as I said, I know I have licence to do that when the boys are in good positions outside me.”

As to the second incident he explained: “I was probably conscious of Jac Morgan who we looked at during the week in terms of how much of a carry threat he was. When he was coming around the corner that was probably at the forefront of my mind.

“Tomos Williams played it across him, so I was lucky to be able to just about hold my feet and grab Biggar. He checked as well to look for the pass earlier. I don’t think he realised he had the time he did and that just gave me the extra split second to grab him.”

Ringrose has started three of the last four Test matches alongside Stuart McCloskey – the Leinster centre came on after just four minutes of the game against Fiji to link up with the Newtownards man – a partnership that should be extended further against France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Nuance and understanding are honed by game time and the pair continue to build on the relationship from the November series. Ringrose was asked about their burgeoning relationship as a midfield partnership. “Centre is a role that seems to chop and change a bit from injury and selection, and both are outside of our control, so we are all encouraged to adapt regardless.

“He has got the ability to take on the gain-line and then be the footballer and play it to the edge so it’s reading and trying to do the best thing for him and vice versa. I know when he takes on the gain-line I know he can be tough to stop so it is [a case of] being in support.

“You can see it with Ulster that James Hume takes a few good offloads from him when he takes on the line, so it is being able to read him in the moment and take that on if it is on but also give him the right communication if it is on to take the edge.”

France’s fitful performance against Italy is unlikely to be replicated on Saturday in Dublin, instead Ringrose expects to encounter a properly calibrated Grand Slam champion from last season. “They have a very good kick-pass game. The challenge with them is that they can take you on in the middle, which tightens you up, and then you just have to be really aware as to where their edge men are.

“So, it’s being able to match them up front when they are trying to go through the middle of you but then also holding your width to negate that threat there as well. It’s a tough thing to do.”

There is also the small matter of chip kicks over an Irish defensive alignment that gets a little aggressive in terms of line speed. Ringrose continued: “Yeah. Their attacking kicking game is well thought out and dangerous. They have guys right across the park who can do it.

“Fronting up it’s just that tug of war between being ready to win the gain-line and then also react to the chip kick as well. It’s tough to do and you need to be connected in how you defend and read the body language of the opposition to just be a step ahead.

“On the other side of the ball, defensively, they are unbelievably aggressive, forcing teams to play differently to what they would have hoped to just with the pressure they put on. On top of that they have a huge breakdown threat, which is another form of attack, so it is a bit of everything really. That is why they are so good and that is the challenge for us to try and rise to that.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer