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'It's hard to put into words what it means for myself, my family and friends'

Garry Ringrose is already a Grand Slam and Champions Cup winner, but there is no let-up in the 23-year-old’s focus.

Ringrose signing autographs at Sunday's homecoming event at Donnybrook.
Ringrose signing autographs at Sunday's homecoming event at Donnybrook.
Image: Ramsey Cardy

AS THE CHAMPIONS Cup trophy glistened in Leinster Rugby headquarters yesterday — and the province revelled in the achievement of a fourth crown — upstairs in the video review rooms, the players were already fully focused on the next job in hand.

The big games come thick and fast at this juncture of the season but the quick turnaround into Saturday’s Pro14 semi-final means Leinster have had to park the celebrations and turn the page pretty quickly.

After a return to work with an afternoon of meetings on Monday, the squad were back on the training field earlier ahead of this weekend’s inter-pro, as attention turns to securing a first European Cup-Pro14 double after falling at the final hurdle in both 2011 and 2012.

Having defeated Northampton and Ulster in European finals and then lost to Munster and Ospreys in the Pro12 decider a week later, Leinster are using those lessons to ensure there is no let-up in intensity or hunger this week.

“There is a lot of competition for places and very often there are two or three teams that could go out over the weekend,” Garry Ringrose says.

“It is a good group of young guys that have come through but it is ultimately the leaders that are driving the standard. The experience that we have in the group has been most vital to our success. The young guys can’t take too much credit for the path they paved for us to follow.

“It was a fourth European Cup for four of the guys, which is tough to even grasp, and that experience really does count. You can’t coach it. You have to pick it up off someone like Isa who is going to be severely missed. I need to make the most of the fact that I get to come in and work alongside him until he is gone.”

Complacency isn’t part of Ringrose’s DNA, and while it would be easy to rest on your laurels after augmenting a Grand Slam title with a historic Champions Cup win with Leinster, the centre is not one to dwell on past success.

Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Luke McGrath celebrate after the game Ringrose celebrates Saturday's win over Racing with Robbie Henshaw. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s a bit surreal, you kind of don’t really sit back and fully reflect on it,” he says of a remarkable season.

“You enjoy the moment out there as we did on Saturday but similarly with the Grand Slam, we had Saracens in the quarter-final so you had to turn the page pretty quickly and it’s a similar challenge now with Munster on Saturday.”

But can you enjoy it?

“I certainly know that my family feel the pressure as well so they are pretty relieved. It was nice on Saturday, we came back and went to the Intercontinental [Hotel] that night and it was nice to spend a bit of time and catch up with family and friends after a pretty tense build up in the week.

“I certainly enjoyed that but personally you look forward to turning the page as quickly as possible.”

Medals in the back pocket, but there is still work to do, and Ringrose epitomises this new wave and their winning mentality. Driven, hungry and consummate, their potential knows no bounds.

That in itself is a burden, and for someone who watched his home province enjoying a period of unprecedented success as a young fan, the former Blackrock College student felt that pressure just as much as anyone. Not least because of the number on the back of his jersey.

“Yeah, it was tough,” he says. “I would say added pressure but it almost seemed a bit surreal I found during the week that I was actually getting an opportunity to put another star on the jersey. It was similar to the Grand Slam where you try not get too distracted by what’s at stake and more about sticking to what works and bringing the best version of yourself on the weekend.

“That’s what helps you win ultimately rather than getting too distracted by what’s at stake. But afterwards, it’s still a bit surreal that we’ve managed to add to that legacy of what I would have been used to growing up. It’s a pretty special feeling even to be part of it.

Garry Ringrose Ringrose speaking at UCD yesterday. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“You spend your whole time dreaming of getting an opportunity like that and then it comes so quickly and it’s finished so quickly like that, so it’s hard to put into words what it means for myself, my family and friends and similarly tricky to put into words what it means for all the guys in here.

“You kind of don’t reflect on it too much once it’s happened because it changed for
Saracens and now for Munster. You enjoy the 24 hours after the game but now
it’s straight back down to business.”

And no better game or opposition to focus the mind quite like Munster.

“The games are as close to international Test matches as they come,” the 23-year-old adds. “Growing up I would have had an appreciation of when it probably wasn’t going as well for Leinster and Munster were having great success.

“Luckily enough I’ve been involved in a couple of wins, but the past doesn’t count for too much unfortunately. It’s good to come back in this week and turn the page pretty quickly.

“It is a standard that means you can’t just turn up on Saturday and expect to be there. With Munster being as good as they are and having the players they do, they will punish us if they do. We’re well aware of that. So, we need to hit the ground running and not get distracted by Saturday.”

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