Garry Ringrose braced for another busy day against Bath
Ireland centre says Leinster must adapt better to the challenge posed by English side
Gary Ringrose: “You can have the best laid plans, and ultimately if you don’t win your ball, get quick ball, it’s tough to play.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Garry Ringrose has played every minute of Leinster’s three Champions Cup matches so far this season – one of four players to have accumulated the maximum game time.
Wings Jordan Larmour and James Lowe and secondrow and last weekend’s man-of-the-match James Ryan complete the quartet. Given his work rate on both sides of the ball and the heavy physical toll it exacts, Ryan’s is perhaps the most impressive feat.
However last weekend at the Recreation Ground when Leinster escaped to a 17-10 win over Bath, Ringrose defied the driving wind and rain, greasy ball, narrow pitch and cloying surface to provide several highlights from an attacking perspective.
His footwork allowed him to escape a thicket of bodies on a couple of occasions while his ability to duck and dive earned more metres than initially promised when he took possession.
He’ll be hoping for a little more attacking latitude this Saturday at the Aviva Stadium against the same opponents but the orange weather warning of high winds and rain suggest a reprise of last weekend’s conditions if not worse. At least the pitch will be a little wider.
Leinster’s issues at the breakdown have been faithfully documented this week. Ringrose enjoyed firsthand knowledge of how sharp Bath were in this facet of the game when Francois Louw hovered over the Leinster centre to force a turnover penalty in first-half injury time. Leinster must adapt better on the pitch.
Ringrose said: “You can have the best laid plans, and ultimately if you don’t win your ball, get quick ball, it’s tough to play. I wouldn’t even call it as a tactic; they just have world class players in those positions that can disrupt. I think we were definitely conscious of it going into the game.
“If the ball carrier looks after the ball that bit better, then we get better access and entry into the ruck; [it’s about] trying to win that space as early as possible. It’s a huge part of the game. I think they got four steals each [it was five for Underhill and three for Louw] between the pair of them but to solely focus on that, I know they’ll bring that and more.
“To focus just on ‘if we fix our ruck, it’ll be a better game’, I don’t think that’ll be the case; it’s one of a couple of elements we’ll have to hone in on.”
Another area that requires remedial work is Leinster’s defence. Bath won the majority of the collisions in the first half and while Leo Cullen and the coaching team’s half-time tweaks had the desired effect, the Irish province will look to be more aggressive, putting increased pressure on and affording less time to Bath’s ball carriers and decision makers.
Ringrose was asked about the official match statistics that listed six missed tackles for the Leinster midfield partnership.
He said: “Towards the end they would have got access, there were one or two lines they took through the line. Because they were playing quick and playing on top of us with good shape, it can be tricky in the outside channels to get clean contacts against [Joe] Cokanasiga and [Semesa] Rokoduguni, guys like them.
“We wouldn’t be the first people to slip off them. That will be something we’ll be striving to change and try and minimise. Whether it’s to change tactics or not, we try and play as best we can in the defensive system that works for us and make minor adjustments based on conditions or how the team is playing.
“Very often what you might prep in the lead up to games is different to what actually happens in the game so you have to be adaptable for all things. I didn’t know the exact figure, but if it is that, it’s always striving to beat it [that figure] week on week and get lower and lower.”
Leinster won’t have to contend with Cokanasiga, the wing suffering a knee ligament injury late on in last weekend’s game but Bath will have been emboldened by their performance at the Rec and unless their hosts get a better handle on the gain-line and at the breakdown it could be another long afternoon for the Irish province.
Teams that are unrelenting in taking the game to Leinster physically – Racing 92 in last season’s Champions Cup final, Toulouse in round two and Bath – are among the few to knock Leo Cullen’s side from its attacking rhythm.
Bath get a second go on Saturday knowing that there is only one team with nothing to lose.