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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

Garry Ringrose is just happy to be back

And he’s not thinking past Saturday’s inter-pro against Ulster.

Ringrose pictured at Leinster HQ earlier this week.
Ringrose pictured at Leinster HQ earlier this week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

WHEN GARRY RINGROSE responds to questions about his form, getting back into Joe Schmidt’s Ireland plans and the forthcoming Six Nations with the same opening to his answer, it leads you to wonder does he ever think past the next game?

How would you describe your game at the moment?

“I haven’t really over-thought it to be honest.”

How disappointing was it to miss out on November and how hard will it be to get back in the team for France?

“Disappointing not being involved in November but I didn’t really over-think it.”

With the level of competition in midfield, it’s going to be tasty in Carton, isn’t it?

“I haven’t really thought too much about Carton House.”

Bottom line is he’s just happy to be back fit again after an injury lay-off which ruled him out of the first four months of the season and Ireland’s November clean sweep.

Since starting all three of the summer Tests against USA and Japan, Ringrose has played just 311 minutes of rugby but is beginning to find his feet again and is regaining some of that match sharpness four months on the sideline will invariably account for.

His shoulder, post-surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation programme, is feeling good and the 22-year-old centre is in line for a second successive start against Ulster at the RDS tomorrow as he builds up his fitness ahead of Leinster’s crucial Champions Cup double-header against Glasgow and Montpellier and, further down the line, the Six Nations.

“I have managed to get a good bit of training under my belt,” he says. “Stuart (Lancaster) and Leo (Cullen) make the training sessions pretty tough and put you under pressure. It’s just about trying to apply what we have talked about in training in a match.

“I think there were a couple of things I could have done personally and we could have done a bit better at the weekend but we were still delighted to get a win against a tough Connacht side.”

Ringrose came directly up against newly-capped Bundee Aki in that New Year’s Day inter-pro and you’d imagine it will be a straight battle between the pair to partner Robbie Henshaw in the Ireland midfield for the Six Nations opener at the Stade de France.

Garry Ringrose Source: Ben Whitley/INPHO

But that’s not something the 22-year-old has given much thought to. Yet.

“Being injured during November I was just focused on that game in Italy that I knew I’d be back for,” he continues, referring to his comeback game for Leinster away to Benetton, during which he marked his return with a try.

“As I was saying earlier the inner fan came out in me in November and 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.”

On his battle with Aki, Ringrose added: ”I think a physical game, with 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 myself, Noel (Reid) and Rory (O’Loughlin) when he came on. There were a couple of learings 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 started all five of Ireland’s Six Nations outings last year, but knows this year he faces far stiffer competition, not only in the form of Aki but the likes of Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell will be in contention too.

“I haven’t really thought too much about Carton House, there is so much competition here in Leinster that I am delighted and eager to get any opportunity I can.

“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.”

He makes a fair point, even if it’s difficult to believe the Six Nations and regaining his number 13 jersey hasn’t crossed his mind at some point.

“It’s pretty difficult to get there [in Ireland squad] with the competition here and throughout Ireland. Then even to stay there with injuries, change in form and guys coming in and out, it’s never easy.

“I know a lot of the opportunities I got last year were the result of injuries to guys ahead of me at the time. I don’t think you ever get comfortable when you are there but getting there in the first place is pretty tricky so both getting there and staying there are pretty tough to be honest.”

Garry Ringrose with Sam Skinner Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Firstly, Ringrose will hope to continue his comeback when Ulster visit Dublin for the final inter-pro of this festive and New Year’s period having also started the back-to-back games against Exeter Chiefs before Christmas.

For the 11-time capped international, any opportunity to gain valuable match minutes at this stage is seen as a big chance — no more so than when he comes up against another potential Irish inclusion in Stuart McCloskey.

“On the back of their win over Munster, Ulster will come here looking to make a bright start and that’s the sort of mindset they’ll be bringing to the RDS this weekend.

“So we’re really going to have to knuckle down over the short turnaround and prepare as best as we can, work on a few things from the Connacht game as well as trying to negate some of the threats they have. It will be tough trying to stop that momentum they have but we have to knuckle down.”

One of those threats is likely to be Jacob Stockdale, whom Ringrose played alongside in his final year of Ireland U20s: “He was pretty special back that. The trajectory has only been up since, the second year with the 20s, getting to the final and 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’s certainly one of the few threats we’ll have to look out for, that’s if he’s playing. 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.”

But the odds will heavily be stacked in Leinster’s favour, who go into round 13 searching for a seventh straight victory across the Pro14 and Champions Cup. A third inter-pro win in the space of 11 days would not only provide a good launchpad for the visit of Glasgow next week but also confirm their status as the leading province heading into the business end of the season.

“We’ll have to see now against Ulster, we have to try and beat them first but yeah it is,the disappointment of last year was always a bit of a chip on the shoulder, trying to get that one step further,” Ringrose explains.

“That’s in the back of everyone’s mind, we still reference the Scarlets game and the Clermont game and the learnings from that, to just be better at winning big games.

“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.

“Winning a trophy is certainly our goal, it’s the same goal I’m sure for the other provinces as well, to finish the year with a bit of silverware. That disappointment from last year drives us.”

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Ryan Bailey

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