Garry Ringrose can be Ireland's key man at Twickenham
Ringrose was in second year in school when Ireland won the their last Grand Slam victory
Ireland’s Garry Ringrose fends off Jonny Gray of Scotland in Saturday’s Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
As Grand Slam dreams tiptoe into the Irish consciousness, the vital and timely return of Garry Ringrose could still prove so cruel.
He was limping at the end. There was 81:09 on the clock when Ringrose bounced into Finn Russell’s face, forcing the Scottish outhalf to change direction; but, leaning off his right foot, he instantly stood tall from what could only be acute pain.
Ankle surgery was needed last January after his leg was trapped under Ulster bodies.
Hope lingers. On 82:52 his agony was ignored when repelling Stuart Hogg’s final probe. Seconds later an understated fist-pumping delight temporarily cloaks injury concerns as this stunning performance deserves to be feted in isolation.
Huw Jones will see Garry Ringrose in his nightmares. He appeared to hurt himself on 57 minutes when sliding away from Scotland’s vaunted 13, but it was fatigue – a feeling he refuses to obey. Slow to rise, in the next moment he again escaped Jones with a hitch kick. Even slower to rise, his rapid catch and pass nearly put Rob Kearney over the try line.
Defence is a weapon. Ringrose tempts the attacker with safe passage in the outside channel, “Skin me alive,” suggests his friendly demeanour, his still-growing frame.
On 66 minutes Jones was humiliated while attempting to glide up the right touchline. Ringrose rag-dolled him out of play. The ensuing assault led to Sean Cronin’s bonus point try.
I think I watched it with my family. It would be amazing to be part of something like that but there is no point getting too distracted by that
On 73 minutes Scotland’s maul cemented in the Irish 22, so Ali Price fired a pass into midfield. Ringrose enveloped him a nanosecond after the ball. The tackle’s ferocity was generated by flawless technique as shoulder smashed into hip bone to flip Jones like an apex predator over prey.
There was another vital tackle on Hogg – cleanly missed by Jacob Stockdale – on 75 minutes.
Bound to buckle
So he cannot be spared – nobody can – as Twickenham looms, but somebody’s bound to buckle under the constant strain. Schmidt swept all injuries into the “plenty of knocks” cupboard – including Cian Healy’s concerning impact – but, considering the 23-year-old’s recent surgery and considering the limp, doubts will exist until God Save The Queen echoes around England’s cavernous abode.
Ireland are running out of centres and backrows. Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell, Jared Payne, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip, Seán O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock is punishment enough. Their defensive lynchpin, their masterful attacker is needed as much as his Blackrock predecessor was in 2009.
“I was second year in school. I think I watched it with my family. It would be amazing to be part of something like that but there is no point getting too distracted by that.”
Ever been to Twickenham?
It’s not like anywhere else.
“Yeah, I haven’t really thought too much about it.”
That’s a good thing?
“Yeah I think so, it’s exciting, I’d love to get the chance to play there.”
Farrell and Henshaw proved defensively sound in stints at outside centre, but on Saturday Ringrose rubbished the decision by Warren Gatland to take Jonathan Joseph, Elliot Daly and Ben Te’o ahead of him on the Lions’ tour to New Zealand last summer. What happens next can redress such unbalance in one fell swoop.
The limp may be nothing, but durability worries exist after shoulder surgeries in July. Ringrose is unconcerned about adding bulk
“We have to find another new midfielder because we can’t have the same two guys going out again,” Schmidt joked, giving a glimpse into his suspicious mind. “That’s a pattern that’s been particularly successful for us! No, it’s pretty hard to go past Garry Ringrose: 91 running metres [11 carries] and 11 tackles. A massive work ethic and really smart performance.”
Only the see-to-believe engines of James Ryan (15 carries, 13 tackles) and CJ Stander (14 carries, 12 tackles) put Ringrose in the statistical shade as a late cameo on this Six Nations odyssey demands high praise, now and forever.
25 minutes: early magic as a central scrum, 14 metres inside Irish territory, has Conor Murray attacking the short side, but it’s a ruse. Bundee Aki switches the point of attack to Ringrose who destroys Peter Horne with a right-foot step. Hogg denies the same try that Clermont had to swallow last season.
“I could’ve done with passing to Johnny inside me,” Ringrose said. “It’s been a couple of months since I made a break like that.”
40 minutes: near the Scottish try line, he morphed into Sexton, looping Aki to gift Stockdale a 10th try in eight caps.
The limp may be nothing, but durability worries exist after shoulder surgeries in July. Ringrose is unconcerned about adding bulk.
“No, I think someone like Keith Earls is an inspiration for me. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s one of the most effective on the pitch so, personally, I wouldn’t get too distracted by the number on a weighing scales.”
Actually, the only place he seems uncomfortable is a post-match mixed zone. On the pitch he exudes inspirational, irreplaceable calmness.