Garry Ringrose scores for Ireland. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ringrose's subtle skills and big moments make him one of the best in the world

The 28-year-old outside centre is an intelligent, effective player.

NOW JUST ONE cap away from the 50-mark for Ireland, Garry Ringrose is playing the best rugby of his career.

His captain, Johnny Sexton, recently made the point that it’s a little hard to believe that Ringrose hasn’t been on a Lions tour yet. At 28, he still has time to add that achievement to his CV and few would bet against him being involved in Australia in 2025, injury permitting.

Whatever about that tour, Ringrose is on fire right now. His consistently superb form has been a big influence in Ireland’s excellent run, even if it’s not always completely obvious how Ringrose is affecting things positively.

He’s capable of producing big game-changing moments that feature in the highlight reels, but much of his best work is more subtle. Ringrose is the kind of player whose skills sometimes need a second viewing of the game to fully appreciate.

Defensively, Ringrose is a leader for Ireland. He’s a glue-like figure who keeps the whole system connected. While Ireland have won lots of plaudits for their attack in recent seasons, their defensive quality has been just as important.

Ringrose is a crucial figure without the ball, making assertive reads and setting a tone for Ireland in defence.

We get an example below against France last weekend.


As France run a pod of two forwards off fullback Thomas Ramos in phase play, Ringrose [highlighted in red below] can see that centre Gaël Fickou and right wing Damian Penaud [white] are set up in behind that pod.


Ringrose initially has to worry about the front-door pass from Ramos to flanker Charles Ollivon [yellow above], so he can’t advance too quickly.

When Ramos does pass out the back to Fickou, we see that Ringrose goes come forward but he doesn’t go flat-out at first, as indicated below.


That’s because Ringrose recognises that Penaud has set up alongside Fickou for a possible late inside pass. Ringrose wants to be certain that Conor Murray [blue above] has been able to swim through the French forwards to cover that inside pass option.

It’s only a delay of a step or two but Ringrose’s peripheral vision picks up that Murray is going to get through the French forwards and he then goes hard at Fickou, rapidly closing down the space as Murray [blue below] covers the inside pass.


Fickou does still manage to get the ball away to his left but Ringrose’s assertiveness triggers something similar from Mack Hansen outside him, with the Ireland wing rapidly closing up on Yoram Moefana, as highlighted in white below.


All the while, Ringrose and Hansen have been confident that Hugo Keenan [yellow above] in the backfield can swing up to take the widest French attacker if the ball does get there. When it’s on to rapidly close down the space, Ringrose triggers it.

He is generally excellent at helping Ireland to manage situations where they are numbers down in defence. Ringrose makes life difficult for opposition decision-makers.

Take the instance below, with Ringrose closing up and in as France try to move the ball to the left edge.


Ringrose makes things difficult for Ramos here because he doesn’t give obvious cues as to where he’s going defensively.

Ringrose can still tackle Anthony Jelonch at the front door [yellow below] or go out the back to deal with Fickou [red].


When presented with multiple options in the attack, Ringrose has a knack for buying himself time to make a better decision.

As we’ve seen above, he can be assertive in coming forward and closing down space, but Ringrose is also adept at biding his time when he needs to.

Take this example against France, the last play of the game.


France have a three-man stack [red below] set up off their lineout maul, while back row François Cros [yellow] is running the front-door option for Fickou at the tip of the stack.


Aware that Cros is an option to carry and that Fickou can also sweep a pass out the back of Cros, watch how Ringrose takes a step backwards to buy some time.


That step also crucially means that Bundee Aki on Ringrose’s inside shoulder has time to shift across and cover Cros as Ringrose slides out onto Ntamack, who has accepted the pass from Fickou.

Ringrose now has a similar conundrum with Moefana [yellow below] running the front door option for Ntamack as left wing Ethan Dumortier [red] hovers in behind.


If Ringrose bites down on Ntamack here, James Lowe outside him will be in a world of trouble trying to cover both Moefana and Dumortier – an impossible situation.

But Ringrose has stayed connected with Aki on his inside and trusts him to get to Ntamack.

Watch how Ringrose actually points Aki towards Ntamack as he moves off to cover Moefana.


It all means that Ringrose can get to Moefana [yellow below] at the front door, which triggers Lowe into being able to go and close down the space to Dumortier [red].


As we can see above, the Irish defensive system accounts for the other two French attackers, with Keenan taking the second last man and right wing Mack Hansen working across to take the last man. They’re not needed as Dumortier knocks the ball on.

Whatever the situation, Ringrose is generally good at making sure the Irish defence stays connected. Much of his best defensive work doesn’t actually involve tackling.

Ringrose does, of course, often have a few missed tackles on the post-match stats sheets but those numbers can be misleading. Rarely do his missed tackles leave Ireland in a hole and sometimes those ‘missed tackles’ help to produce positive outcomes for Ireland.

Ringrose has to be aggressive out on the edge of the Irish defence and coming forward with great linespeed can make defenders vulnerable to slipping off tackles. Many times, the linespeed is enough to shepherd attackers inside for team-mates to finish the job.

In the instance below, Ringrose would obviously love to smash Fickou ball-and-all but Ireland get a gainline win on this phase.


With Fickou hitting the breaks as he spots Ringrose shooting forward, the Ireland centre is left in an awkward position with his head inside the tackle and Fickou is able to shrug him off, but Tadhg Beirne completes the tackle from the inside.

Ringrose’s defensive work-rate is always impressive and he had one huge moment in that regard at a crucial point of the second half against France.

Initially, he tackles Moefana over near the 15-metre line on Ireland’s left, leaving him positioned at the fringe of the ruck.


As France then shift the ball wide to the other side of the pitch, Ringrose swings across behind the Irish frontline defence.


Ringrose’s effort means he is then in exactly the right place at the right time to collect Dumortier’s chip ahead on the full, marking the ball inside the Irish 22.


Again, it’s pure Ringrose. If he hadn’t been there, France would almost certainly have scored through Jelonch gathering Dumortier’s kick.

Indeed, not many people would have pointed a finger of blame at Ringrose if he had scored, given how he started on the other side of the pitch. But the Ireland centre is always alert to danger.

His involvement in Ireland’s attack against France was also pretty understated until his brilliant late try.

Ringrose had a key role to play in the brilliant Keenan try. He starts by working back from his initial position to the right of the posts, where he covers the possible short drop-out.


As Caelan Doris carries the ball back at France, Ringrose swings over to Ireland’s left for the strike on second phase.


Ringrose positions himself almost directly behind Finlay Bealham [red below], from where his job is to dart diagonally towards the touchline out the back of hooker Rob Herring [yellow].


The idea here is that Ringrose gives Murray a passing option if he receives the ball back from Bealham on the loop.

Ireland want France to worry about an attack out towards the left touchline and we can see their play has that effect as Antoine Dupont closes up and in [red below], bringing right-wing Penaud with him, while Ntamack [yellow] in the backfield moves towards the touchline in anticipation of covering last attacker.


Of course, Ringrose’s movement has also worried the French defenders closer to the ruck, helping to create the space for Keenan to scorch through off Bealham’s inside pass.

Having worried about that wide attack, the other French defenders aren’t able to turn in and track back onto Keenan. Ringrose’s role has already evolved into providing support on Keenan’s left, where he’s a viable option for the pass.


Ringrose would almost certainly have scored had Keenan passed to him, but the Irish fullback dummies and backs himself to get the job done.

He did good work off the ball for this Keenan try, but Ringrose also had some important touches on it.

His pass to Lowe for his try was sharp, with the Ireland centre getting great pace on the ball over a distance of around 18 metres.


Lowe does have to reach overhead to catch the ball but the difficulty of throwing a pass like this shouldn’t be underestimated.

The timing of Ringrose’s release is excellent as he identifies that Ireland’s attacking shape has caused Ntamack, and Penaud in turn, to bite in. Without delay, Ringrose fires the ball to Lowe and gives his wing a chance to produce an acrobatic finish.

It’s not that long ago that there were question marks over Ringrose’s distribution and while he still has scope for improvement with his decision-making and execution, it’s positive to see him using his passing skills for Ireland more regularly now.


Ringrose has also worked hard on his kicking skills and has added value to Ireland there too, giving them another option in the backline.

While improving his kicking technique, Ringrose has also become far better at identifying chances to kick into space, as in the example below after a Doris turnover.


Of course, Ringrose’s headline moment in this game came when he scored their bonus-point try.

His finish came out on the left but Ringrose chipped in before that as Ireland ground through phases in the middle of the pitch.

On 12th phase, we see him helping to clear Fickou away from the ball.


And on the next phase, Ringrose provides a more physical clearout on Cros.


Ireland shift back to their left and this is when Ringrose makes his move, swinging all the way over to the left.


Ringrose gets out onto the left touchline, freeing Lowe to get infield in the hope of providing a big carry or offload.

Instead, play works its way out to Ringrose and despite his exhaustion, he finds the energy for a brilliant finish off Doris’ superb offload.


We can see above how Ringrose’s footwork unsettles Matthieu Jalibert, as he springs to the Frenchman’s inside shoulder and then bounces back out again as he fires up a left-handed fend.

It’s a little unorthodox – attackers in this position would generally carry the ball in their outside arm and fend with their inside hand – but Ringrose gets a huge amount of power into his fend.


Jalibert is shoved backwards into Fickou, knocking him to the ground too and making it difficult for Romain Taofifenua to rescue the situation.

Ringrose hitches out of Taofifenua’s tackle attempt to cross the whitewash and round closer to the posts. A well-deserved try at the end of another outstanding performance by a player at the top of his game.

- This article was updated at 8.55am on 20 February to correct two typos in the last two paragraphs.

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