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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 14 December, 2018

'Change before change is needed': Sea swims, saunas and stretching giving Ringrose the edge

Complacency isn’t part of the Leinster centre’s DNA as he strives to become a better player each day.

ALTHOUGH HE HAS achieved so much, so soon, the losses and disappointments remain fresh in Garry Ringrose’s memory, rather than some of the indelible days he experienced with Leinster and Ireland last season.

Complacency is not part of the 23-year-old’s DNA, Ringrose part of this new wave and generation who retain a single-minded fixation on finding the one percenters which will ensure he presents the best version of himself on matchday.

Garry Ringrose arrives Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Mature beyond his years and intelligent both on and off the field, Ringrose — ever since he was first being touted as the next big thing — has never got ahead of himself, rather focused on putting the head down and working incredibly hard.

Even after coming back from shoulder and ankle injuries to perform a key role in Ireland’s Grand Slam success, and then Leinster’s dream double, Ringrose spent the summer seeking ways to improve his game. He is, in every sense, a perfectionist.

“There was probably a couple of things I could fix up and areas I could improve on,” he tells The42.

One of the areas Ringrose had identified was his work off the ball, and certainly there were signs during the second half of last season that he had made huge strides in this regard, consistently marshalling the outside edge for both Leinster and Ireland upon his return.

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, which was again evident during the historic summer Test victory in Australia.

“It’s just a constant thing to be honest,” he says of finding ways to improve his defensive prowess. 

“It depends on the type of game but there’s usually a defensive responsibility there to deliver and you’ve just got to keep working at it. There’s new challenges, different players and different teams you come up against. There’s always something new thrown at you and you want to be in the best position possible to deal with it.

“I’d certainly look at it as a constant work on. I don’t get it right in a lot of the games so it’s constantly staying focused on just trying to minimise those mistakes.

“Even if it appears you might have done well, you don’t want to sit back and rest on your laurels because that’s not the way to approach it. You’re always trying to pick holes and look for areas for improvement. That focus never really stops regardless of performances or results.”

In addition to Ringrose’s improving leadership in defence, one of the key features of his performances so far this season has been the growth in his playmaking and distribution ability, with the 13 regularly standing at first-receiver off first play during his three 80-minute Guinness Pro14 outings to date.

While best known for his dazzling line-running and capacity to step off both feet, as evidenced in Galway a fortnight ago when he danced through the Connacht defence for his first try of the campaign, Ringrose has developed into a consistently excellent all-round performer since those early days in a Blackrock jersey.

“There was a good quote I heard recently, ‘to change before change is needed,’” he continues.

“I think that’s part and parcel of evolving, the reality is all players are striving to get better, so you can’t rest too much on last year because all the other teams are going to get better.

“It’s to keep that same focus, that mentality to keep improving. You don’t want to go back to the days you lost. The Pro12 final defeat to Connacht stands out, so you can never really get too complacent because they still seem pretty fresh, the disappointments. That’s what keeps us motivated and driven.

Garry Ringrose Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Personally, if I was to ever get complacent, then it would just have a negative effect on myself and the team. That’s always the driving thing to think of.”

While the hours Ringrose puts in in the gym, video review room and indeed training paddock is well known and is obvious in his levels of performance, he is also fully aware of the need to seek the marginal gains outside of the four walls of Leinster’s UCD HQ.

Having endured injury frustration for the first time in his career last year, Ringrose places even greater emphasis on recovery and rehab now, with regular visits to Seapoint part of his schedule.

“I’d always be a fan of the traditional swim in the sea,” he explains. “It’s pretty refreshing. I head down to Seapoint, which isn’t too far from where I live. That with a combination of a couple of sessions in the sauna to try and hit two different stimuli on that front.

“At Leinster and Ireland, we’re lucky because there are full-time masseurs that are constantly making sure that every niggle or knock is ironed out.

“I was only talking to Isa [Nacewa] the other day about this. You never really fully forget about it [rugby]. There’s always something you can be doing. There’s always something at the back of your head. It’s just about trying to get that balance right because on any given day you want to be doing something that is ultimately going to contribute to you being a better version than yourself.

“There’s an endless list of things you can be doing every day but what’s part of that is getting that balance right. If you head to the cinema with a couple of mates or just go out for a round of golf, ultimately that’s contributing to being in a good mental space. I wouldn’t look on it as a pressure or a negative thing, it’s just the challenge of being in the position you are in [as a rugby player].

Even on his time off, Ringrose — a self-confessed rugby fanatic — finds himself immersed in the sport, and while he might watch the Rugby Championship or Super Rugby out of enjoyment, there are also benefits to being as tuned in as he is.

“Everyone is different, I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other as a lot of lads have their own things to work on. While having breakfast in the morning watching New Zealand or Australia or whoever I get enjoyment out of watching those games and you can pick up a few things.

“Not analysing them but trying to learn off other players, other systems and different scenarios. It’s something Stuart [Lancaster] always encourages, to just watch as many games as possible to try and educate ourselves and have a point of view afterwards. It ties in well with that [finding an edge] as well. Most guys would watch games anyway.”

Leinsters  Garry Ringrose Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ringrose had to watch on last week as Leinster continued their recent dominance over Munster with a 30-22 inter-pro victory at the Aviva Stadium, as the 14-time capped Ireland centre was wrapped in cotton wool ahead of tomorrow’s Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps.

Along with Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Scott Fardy, Ringrose is expected to be recalled for the visit of the English side to the RDS, as Leinster begin the defence of their European crown under Friday night lights.

For Ringrose, it’s another big game at the end of a week in which he’s has left no stone unturned to ensure he is in the best shape possible to deliver a performance in the blue jersey.

“You definitely feel the pressure [of performing] and you’re aware of it but there are things you can do to try and counteract that,” he adds.

“Like relaxing with mates or walking the dog, you can’t play the match too early in your head, if it’s not on until Friday night, you want to be focused, be in a good place and not have any distractions but then also relaxing and making sure you’re in a good frame of mind mentally as well as being in a good position physically.

“I wouldn’t say I turn into a different person on matchday but you probably become a little bit selfish to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to perform by the end of the day.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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