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Dublin: 0°C Friday 23 April 2021

'I really think Ringrose is a strong option' - Picking the 2021 Lions centre pairing

The latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly saw the lads choose their midfields and back threes.

THIS WEEK’S EPISODE of The42 Rugby Weekly saw Gavan Casey joined by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella to discuss the possible 2021 Lions starting centres and back three.

Having worked through the forward pack and halfbacks over the course of the last two episodes, today’s podcast focused on the outside backs.

Bernard opted for Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi as his starting midfield pairing, while Murray went for Tuilagi and Jonathan Davies, but both agreed that Ireland’s Garry Ringrose will be firmly in the mix for a Test start.

garry-ringrose Garry Ringrose will be in the mix for the Lions. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

25-year-old Ringrose was close to touring with the Lions in 2017, head coach Warren Gatland admitted, and the Leinster man will certainly be in strong consideration for the trip to South Africa too.

The lads picked four out-and-out centres to tour, with Bernard opting to select England captain Farrell at inside centre rather than out-half.


Bernard: “Farrell could easily play 12 and if he does, I think Tuilagi will get the starting shot at 13 but I would have no problem with playing Manu at 12 and Jonathan Davies at 13 either.

“We’re taking it for granted that Davies comes back to the form he has shown before.

“I really think Ringrose is a strong option. He’s obviously not the same kind of size as some of the other options but I think you could play Manu Tuilagi at 12 and Garry at 13.

“I wouldn’t have any issue with that at all. My starting pair is Farrell at 12 and Tuilagi at 13.”

Gavan: “Ringrose is an interesting one, Murray, he definitely has the all round ability to be worthy of a seat on the plane at the every least.

“Could you see him possibly gatecrashing a starting 15 in South Africa or is that being slightly too ambitious when you have players of the calibre of Tuilagi and Davies?”

manu-tuilagi-tackled-by-robbie-henshaw Tuilagi is hard to ignore in midfield. Source: Billy Stickand/INPHO

Murray: “I can absolutely see that happening. For me, he’s a nailed-on tourist. I think he’s going to be really close to the Test team.

“He’s a little different in physique to Davies and obviously Tuilagi – everyone is – but Ringrose offers something different. His footwork is genuinely world-class, that ability to beat defenders, even not always to make a linebreak but to get to an inside or outside shoulder, get the gainline, and make everything easier on the next phase. 

“Even when he doesn’t make the breaks, he’s making those valuable metres. He gives you that beautiful dancing ability on the ball.

“He’s 25 now and the challenge is to be a really complete outside centre and try to offer run/kick/pass decision-making perfection as much as he can – where he’s not always just backing his ability to beat defenders.

“His kicking game is something that is definitely in his mind, and Stuart Lancaster’s mind in Leinster, to work hard on, and you’ve seen really nice glimpses of that with the long right-footed grubber kicks – something that Jonathan Davies does really well with his left foot.

“Ringrose can continue to improve in that area and with his passing game, bringing others into the game. I think he has all the vision to do that.

“He’s a really intelligent defender, one of the best in the game really when you’re numbers down, on that jockey and have to manage an overlap. He’s not the biggest lump of a guy and people tend to look at his missed tackles stats but I think some of those missed tackle stats are brilliant bits of defence.

“Yeah, he does slip off a couple where he’d be hard on himself and say he should complete those hits when he’s coming forward at speed, but very often he’s making good reads and being a cog in the defensive system.

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“So I think he’s going to be really close. An excellent footballer, a really intelligent guy and very hard-working, so there’s going to be a real challenge on Davies or Tuilagi, whoever’s at 13.”

jonathan-davies-with-his-family-after-the-game Davies was superb on the 2017 Lions tour. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Gavan: “What is it about Tuilagi, Bernard, that would separate him from Davies in your mind as the starting 13 if Farrell was to start at 12?”

Bernard: “I think he’s on a different level in terms of power. I think it’s such a shame he has missed so much rugby over the last three or four years that we haven’t seen as much as him as we would have liked.

“When he’s on his game, I don’t think there’s any centre in Europe who has the same ability to get you go-forward. He’s the Billy Vunipola of centres in terms of being able to give you consistent go-forward but he also has subtleties to his game.

“He can be a playmaker, particularly off strike moves where the opposition are so worried about his power that sometimes the outside defender is tempted to jam in to help and Manu is able to make those passes late in a strike play to create space on the outside.

“I think he’s just on a different level when he’s fit. When he plays for England or Leicester, he completely changes the whole performance level of the team, which is incredibly rare.

“For me, he is one of the outstanding players and Warren Gatland will be crossing his fingers and toes that he’s fit to get on the plane to South Africa.”

Listen to Bernard and Murray pick their four centres and eight back three players to tour on The42 Rugby Weekly on your usual podcast app or below.

In the third of a three-part series, Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to select their centres and back threes to board the plane and face world champions South Africa next summer.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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