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Ringrose back as the centre of attention in Ireland's defensive line

The 23-year-old is fully aware of the challenge that awaits as he steps back into the Test arena on Saturday.

THE HEAVY ARTILLERY is back, and while Ireland are locked and loaded for Saturday’s second Test in Melbourne, they are also now fully aware of how difficult it is to nullify Australia’s aggressive and devastating approach.

Garry Ringrose Garry Ringrose is back in Ireland's midfield. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Michael Cheika’s side drew first blood in the series opener by means of a clinical performance, epitomised by the havoc they caused at the breakdown and their ruthless edge in possession, with Ireland’s dream season in danger of being logged with a negative footnote.

There is no shortage of motivation for the visitors as they look to bring the series to Sydney, but the same can be said for the Wallabies — as they showed last week — with Cheika’s men entering a key juncture in their preparation for next year’s World Cup.

Ireland know they need to be far better than they were in Brisbane and the return of several Grand Slam winners, including Garry Ringrose, has raised the stakes and is an indication of the importance Joe Schmidt has placed on Saturday’s second Test.

If they weren’t already aware of the threat Australia pose, particularly at home, Ireland will be under no illusions now and certainly a recall for the likes of Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner and Dan Leavy in the engine room and Johnny Sexton to partner Conor Murray in the half-backs strengthens Ireland’s hand.

Leavy’s return in the back row unit means the Leinster flanker will be tasked with neutralising the impact of Michael Hooper and David Pocock over Irish ball, an area of the game Australia dominated last week and provided the platform for their 19-8 win.

The same can be said about the midfield channel, where Australia enjoyed success with their expansive counter-attacking game, directed by Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, yielding a try in either half, while Ireland were kept try-less.

Ringrose’s return to the number 13 jersey sees Robbie Henshaw shift to inside centre and Bundee Aki, who was carrying a niggle, drop out of the matchday squad completely.

The 23-year-old, who will win his 14th cap in Melbourne, will not only add to Ireland’s attacking game but provide better decision-making and defensive prowess when the visitors are without the ball.

Ringrose not only links up with Leinster team-mate Henshaw but having marshalled the outside edge for both Ireland and Leinster impressively since his return from shoulder and ankle injuries, Schmidt will hope his presence will tighten up Ireland’s defence.

Garry Ringrose Ringrose in training this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking at Thursday’s team announcement, Ringrose said he had spoken with both Henshaw and Aki in the build-up to the game to try and get a better handle on the multiple threats an explosive Wallaby backline will pose.

“They’ve got guys along the back who can play multiple positions and they’ve loads of skills, loads of pace so it’ll be a tough task,” he said. “We’ll have to be on point and prepare as best we can to deal with their threats.

“Bundee worked pretty close with us and I was just picking up things off them and hopefully we can execute it better [this Saturday] and get the win in the end.

“The fact they’ve two footballers at 10 and 12 and they can often present two-sided attack so the centres have to be on form and seeing the picture as early as possible and react to what they throw and try and put a bit more pressure on them than last week.”

Ringrose is always methodical in his approach and places huge emphasis on his defensive contributions, fully aware of what is coming his way in the midfield channels.

He would have watched Australia switch the point of attack regularly, with Foley’s clever kicking game causing Ireland no end of problems, and taken notes from the stands, but there is no substitute to being out there in the thick of the action.

“I would have loved to have been out there but obviously can’t play every week,” he added.

“It was a different perspective when you’re watching from the stands, you can pick up one or two things but you also get the best perspective from that field when you’re out there and that’s why I was trying to catch up with Bundee and obviously Robbie who was at 13.

“My job now is to just try and fit in and get my role right.”

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Ryan Bailey

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