Leinster’s Garry Ringrose nearly back to his imperious best
Ireland centre improving with every game six months on from shoulder surgery
Garry Ringrose is tackled by Connacht’s Tom Farrell and Bundee Aki. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Five months on following shoulder surgery last July, Garry Ringrose swapped training for Treviso, as he stepped into a competitive environment for the first time this season, accumulating 71-minutes and a try.
It would have seemed a gentle preamble to what ensued over the next fortnight, two ferociously physical Champions Cup encounters with England’s finest, the Exeter Chiefs, from which Leinster emerged with a brace of victories. He didn’t play against Munster but was handed a fourth outing against Connacht last Monday, a contest with a personal subtext.
Not that he would have viewed it in such a manner but others were intrigued to pick through the bones of his tussle with the man who deputised for the injured Ringrose during the November test series, Bundee Aki, albeit with Robbie Henshaw wearing the green number 13 jersey.
Any comparison between the two at the RDS can’t be linear in analysis because there are so many peripheral factors but Aki had an excellent game, his work-rate and strength through the tackle complementing an instinctive appreciation of space; he didn’t wait for the ball to find him but sought it out, adopting a free-ranging role that is a hallmark of his game at Connacht.
Ringrose was tidy in comparison; the expectation is that with every game he’ll edge ever closer to his imperious best. Matches sharpen the mind as well as the body. On Saturday the 22-year-old will play against Ulster thereby starting five of Leinster’s last six matches, a prospect he relishes.
‘Tucking a bit tighter’
In reviewing the Connacht game he noticed a couple of things that he’s keen to refine for the weekend, “sitting a little bit deeper and tucking a bit tighter to get to the edge” in attack. He admitted: “I think there were a couple of things I could have done personally and we (as a team) could have done a bit better but we were still delighted to get a win against a tough Connacht side.
“Coming back from a shoulder injury or not, I think it is pretty difficult to deal with Bundee on any given day. He proved his quality along with Tom Farrell in the centre. He certainly made it tough for me, Noel (Reid) and Rory (O’Loughlin) when he came on.
“There were a couple of ‘learnings’ from the game but hopefully now it’s nice to be in for the next day, get the analysis done, go out to training and work on them again.”
Ringrose doesn’t sweat the external chatter preferring to control what’s within his remit. Naturally disappointed to miss out through injury in November, he wasn’t sitting there wringing his hands in frustration. “The inner fan came out in me in November. I was pretty excited to watch the lads play so well and get a few cracking wins. I am just happy to be back in the Leinster shirt.
“What’s in my control is working hard in training and try and put my hand up. If I get selected for Leinster, then take full advantage of that; I am not really worried about Ireland or stuff. That is out of my control and I am not going to over think it too much.”
A standout player for Leinster against Connacht, and that’s a statement that’s applicable to the three matches he’s played for the province since his arrival from New Zealand, was James Lowe. Ringrose has played alongside him in the three quarter line in two of those games.
“He’s (Lowe) bought into the culture here straight away, is a great character in the dressingroom and on the pitch is pretty vocal out there; I’m sure it is evident. He really has brought that excitement on the wing.
“He’s physical in contact with good footwork but he backs it up with pretty special offloads as well. He’s pretty fun to play inside of, or around. I have no doubt with the enthusiasm he’s bringing that that form will continue.”
Jacob Stockdale has been included in the Ulster squad, a player with whom Ringrose first played with at Ireland Under-20 level before they reunited for Ireland’s tour to the USA and Japan where Stockdale won his first cap.
Ringrose said: “I managed to play his first year at 20s (it was Ringrose’s second) and he was pretty special back then. The trajectory has only been up since, the second year with the 20s, getting to the (World Cup) final, he was one of the stand-out players no doubt.
“He’s been in phenomenal form with Ulster and then for Ireland he proved his quality again, in November. He doesn’t seem to be stopping at all. He has been incredible; he certainly plays with a smile. He’s a big guy but he’s skilful as well and has a big left boot as well. He’s a talent.”
Having beaten Munster and Connacht, Leinster will be keen to make it a hat-trick of interprovincial wins and there’ll certainly be no complacency as they draw upon the disappointments of last season.
Ringrose admitted: “That’s in the back of everyone’s mind, we still reference the Scarlets game and the Clermont game to just be better at winning. I think it’s helped the squad. You could pick three starting teams out of the squad at the moment. There’s so much competition; that’s kind of driving the standards in training and out on the pitch as well.” A positive for all concerned with the province.