Joe Schmidt to make decision on Garry Ringrose’s Ireland future

Ireland coach taking a mindful approach with young centre, despite Brian O’Driscoll’s advice

 

The Roman philosopher and politician Cicero once observed that: “No one can give you wiser advice than yourself.”    

Joe Schmidt wouldn’t ordinarily heed unsolicited counsel, irrespective of bona fides, on Ireland squad selection, no matter how well meaning the intention, but he smiled when asked about Brian O’Driscoll’s suggestion that he’d like to see Garry Ringrose play for Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations Championship.

In it’s public forum O’Driscoll’s words weren’t so much advice as an expression of opinion, albeit one that was privately supplemented by a text message. As one of the greatest players in the sport, with an intimate knowledge of the outside centre position, it represented an eye-catching endorsement.

The Ireland coach admitted: “Drico is iconic and therefore someone throwing some words out they might be featherweight words but Drico, he’s a heavyweight because of his experience in the game, his knowledge of the position and his iconic status, so they are going to carry more weight.

‘Good banter’

Schmidt has played a pastoral role in Ringrose’s development from the time he invited the 21-year-old to an Ireland camp prior to the November Test series in 2014, on foot of watching him play in the World Rugby Under-20 Championships the previous summer in New Zealand.

The Mike Ruddock-coached Ireland squad made the third- and fourth-place playoff and Ringrose was shortlisted for the Under-20 World Player of the Year.

Schmidt explained: “Garry Ringrose is not a guy who has suddenly sprung onto our radar.

“He has come in a few other times as well. We’ve tried to encourage him to be an extra part of the squad. What Garry Ringrose needs now, is to keep on building confidence.

“Is putting him in against 110 kilos of hurtling Jamie Roberts or 104 kilos of footwork and fend that Jonathan Davies can deliver [the right thing to do] or is it sitting in the squad and not playing, or is it him building that confidence that he’s started to demonstrate through the Pro12 and one European start. This is a great window for him to get game time.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not investing in him. We’re investing in him because playing that Pro12 rugby is an opportunity for him to keep going. And it’s no different with [Munster’s] Jack O’Donoghue.

“Jack O’Donoghue has done a great job this year. He’s probably been moved around because Tommy (O’Donnell) got injured. Jack’s mostly played at the back of the scrum (number eight) and he’s been playing on the openside of the scrum and it’s a different challenge for him but he’s been so robust and resilient. He’s a player we’ve earmarked for a while.

“I watched those under-20s play against New Zealand in that playoff and Peter Dooley is another guy who really, really impressed us, so those guys are starting to work their way through the system.

“Do we accelerate the system and get them in there at the risk of them losing a bit of confidence or potentially getting them knocked around or injured or do we have players at the moment who we maintain and hopefully progress with them and they get driven on by these young guys that feed in?”

‘Very competitive’

Ultan Dillane

Schmidt pointed out that external conjecture on the composition of the Ireland squad was relatively straightforward to blot out but that there’s no way he’d assert that he is infallible in the decision-making process: “We try to work within the bubble that’s productive.

“What’s most productive is trying to get a squad that has a balance to it, trying to make sure that we have players who are physically ready and have the experience to go in and compete at what is an incredibly tough championship. It is a fine balance.

“I’d be the first to say, there’s no way that I get every decision right because I don’t think any human does. What you try to do is, if you work harder than anyone else to have a look at the person’s game, to communicate with that person and get a sense of where they’re at and what they can feel confident doing and then you make the decision.

“One of the advantages for me is that I have access to all that information and the player to try and base those decisions upon, and even then, I don’t get it right. Some of the time hopefully I do.”

The evidence is that he does, and a great deal more often than some of the time.

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