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'Stuart talks about taking a bit of pressure off the 10 when the opportunity comes up'

Garry Ringrose had a strong first outing of the season for Leinster but sees plenty of room for improvement.

21 MINUTES INTO Leinster’s win against the Dragons and we’ve already had a couple of glimpses of Garry Ringrose’s growing comfort acting as a first receiver.

More renowned for his individual side-stepping and line-running brilliance when he first burst onto the scene, the 23-year-old has developed as a distributor and playmaker for Leinster and Ireland in the past year or so.

In his first appearance of the new season at the RDS on Saturday, there was more evidence of that growth.

With Johnny Sexton in a ruck on the right touchline, Ringrose takes responsibility at first receiver and cleverly goes at the Dragons line, taking advantage of some poor defence to slip Scott Fardy into a gap.

Ring

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Ringrose poses a real threat to the Dragons’ defensive line here, bursting at the line with ball-in-hand.

Even as he releases the pass, he is eyeballing the sliver of space between Aaron Wainright and Cory Hill, as indicated in white below.

Ringrose

Hill has committed to tackling Ringrose [yellow above] but Ringrose’s darting run at the line while keeping his hips square upfield also manages to drag Wainright [red] out onto Ringrose, leaving space for Fardy to burst into.

After one of Ringrose’s four linebreak assists in this game, Fardy offloads in behind and Andrew Porter does very well to gather the ball.

Three phases later, Ringrose is back at first receiver, this time firing off a pass for Rob Kearney to carry, and then he also fills in as scrum-half with an intelligent snipe and offload to Sean Cronin.

10:9

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Ringrose shows excellent strength and balance in the tackle to free his right arm for the offload to Cronin, but it’s his appearances at first receiver that are perhaps of most interest moving forward.

“It’s a bit of both,” says the centre when asked if he’s stepping into this role more often by circumstance or design. “It is circumstance; you don’t try to force it or take on the ball too much because there are positions on the pitch I need to be.

“But Stuart [Lancaster] talks about that sometimes, when the opportunity comes up to take a bit of pressure off the 10, whether it’s Ross [Byrne] or Johnny. He encourages the centres and fullbacks to step up and take on the load and be efficient in how we work.

“The more you challenge yourself in training, the less you overthink it in games. It usually happens pretty organically in matches.”

Ringrose’s first outing of the season was successful, with his threat in attack allowing him to beat eight Dragons defenders, complete two offloads, and run for 44 metres across 12 carries.

His ever-growing understanding with Robbie Henshaw was also evident as they linked up sharply on a number of occasions, including the passage below.

Centres

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Henshaw is at first receiver this time, hitting James Ryan, who turns and drops the ball off to Ringrose.

The outside centre offloads back to Henshaw, who has worked around for a second touch and then drops a pass underneath the outstretched arm of the Dragons’ Jack Dixon and into space.

“It starts in training, building that cohesion; you can’t just arrive at the weekend and it’s there,” says Ringrose of combining with Henshaw.

“We work hard with all the other centres in training and in the build-up talking about how we’re going to go defensively and ball-in-hand. It’s always a bit of fun playing beside Robbie because he’s a really good talker and the lines he runs are incredibly good. We linked once or twice the last day and we can continue to get better.

“You learn how to cope, talk to each other, what they do – you get a sense of reading their body language, reading what they’re doing out the back. That’s right across the backline, not just at 12 and 13.”

Henshaw and Ringrose have built a strong defensive understanding with province and country too, although they were disappointed to get cut open by Jordan Williams for a stunning try by the Dragons fullback last weekend.

JW

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Ringrose puts the Williams linebreak down to his individual defensive error.

“Looking at it, we actually were numbered up alright but he just beat me one-on-one,” says Ringrose. 

111

“His footwork is exceptional and we would have looked at it beforehand but even with all the prep I’d done, he had beaten me and was gone before I realised.

“It was a tough pill to swallow that one, but a reality check that I need to mind that inside shoulder and be better in that regard. We had worked well up until that point but I’ve got to be better there.”

Ringrose made some fine hits among his seven completed tackles against the Dragons but was frustrated with another miss earlier in the game.

The sight of Ringrose making reads and shooting up from the defensive line in an attempt to tackle ball carriers well behind the gainline is very common, but he feels he can improve in this area of the game.

“It’s just about getting a read and being comfortable doing it,” says the midfielder. “There was one I got out on Hallam Amos and missed him.

Amos

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“It’s not necessarily the contact,” continues Ringrose. “It’s just getting my footwork in the last two or three yards before the collision starts – that’s where it’s decided if it’s going to be a good or bad tackle. I got that wrong, which led to him slipping inside.

“If it’s on and we’re connected and there’s the opportunity for someone to go and attack without the ball, we’d always be encouraged to take that opportunity. It’s something that I need to get better at if I get the chance.”

It has been interesting to see Ringrose being lifted by Ireland and Leinster at defensive restarts more often in the last year.

Backs being lifted at restarts is a real trend in rugby – Connacht lift four backs, for example – and it’s an area where Ringrose has been happy to adapt.

“I’m one of the lighter ones,” he says. “Josh [van der Flier] is at the back of me and had no issue throwing me up!

“Loads of teams are doing it, you need to be able to adapt off kick-off because if you can secure that ball, it sets you up well to attack from there or put pressure back on the opposition.”

KO

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The restart above saw Ringrose spilling the ball in the air as the Dragons’ Ollie Griffiths did a fine job of disrupting, leading to a knock-on from Leinster after the ball escaped Ringrose’s grasp.

“There was that one they put on us and the Dragons player got in the seam between myself and Josh, which hindered the lift a bit,” says Ringrose.

KO1

While it was a fine first outing of the season, there is plenty of room for improvement for a perfectionist like Ringrose. 

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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