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Schmidt explains Ringrose omission after BOD called for Six Nations cap

The Ireland head coach is keeping a close eye on Leinster’s promising outside centre.

WITH FOUR UNCAPPED players included in the shape of CJ Stander, Ultan Dillane, Stuart McCloskey and Josh van der Flier, there was much to be excited about in Ireland’s Six Nations squad.

Connacht’s Denis Buckley and Matt Healy have been cited as among the most unfortunate players to miss out, but the exclusion of Garry Ringrose was an initial talking point when Schmidt announced his 35-man squad for the first two rounds last week.

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose Many felt Ringrose was ready for Test rugby. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The Leinster centre only turned 21 on Tuesday and has made just 10 senior appearances for the province, but his exceptional talent is obvious.

Many argued the case that Ringrose should have been picked in Schmidt’s squad, pitched into the training at Carton House and given an early taste of Test rugby.

Perhaps the most notable name expressing the view that Ringrose was ready was the greatest Irish outside centre of them all, Brian O’Driscoll.

Always well prepared to rebuke popular opinion, Schmidt explained why he opted against including Ringrose – pointing out that he called the Leinster tyro into Ireland senior training as early as 2014.

“Drico is iconic and therefore someone throwing some words out they might be featherweight words but Drico, he’s a heavyweight because of his experience in the game, his knowledge of the position and his iconic status, so they are going to carry more weight,” says Schmidt with a smile when asked about O’Driscoll’s comments.

“What is ironic is that we had Garry Ringrose in for a whole week in camp before the November Series the year before last [2014] so Garry Ringrose is not a guy who has suddenly sprung onto our radar.

“He has come in a few other times as well. We’ve tried to encourage him to be an extra part of the squad. What Garry Ringrose needs now is to keep building his confidence.

“Is putting him in against 110 kilos of hurtling Jamie Roberts or the 104 kilos of footwork and fend that Jonathan Davies can deliver, or is it sitting in the squad and not playing, or is it him building that confidence that he’s started to demonstrate through the PRO12 and one European start? This is a great window for him to get game time.

Rory Scholes aand Jack O'Donoghue Schmidt is keeping a close eye on Jack O'Donoghue. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It doesn’t mean we’re not investing in him. We’re investing in him because playing that PRO12 rugby is an opportunity for him to keep going.

“And it’s no different with Jack O’Donoghue,” continues Schmidt without the back row having been mentioned in the question. “Jack O’Donoghue has done a great job this year. He’s probably been moved around because Tommy [O'Donnell] got injured.

“Jack’s mostly played at the back of the scrum [number eight] and he’s been playing on the openside of the scrum and it’s a different challenge for him but he’s been so robust and resilient. He’s a player we’ve earmarked for a while.

“I watched those U20s play against New Zealand in that 3rd/4th-place play-off [at the 2014 Junior World Championship] and Peter Dooley is another guy who really, really impressed us, so those guys are starting to work their way through the system.

“Do we accelerate the system and get them in there at the risk of them losing a bit of confidence or potentially getting them knocked around or injured, or do we have players at the moment who we maintain and hopefully progress with them and they get driven on by these young guys that feed in?

“Josh van der Flier’s a good example, Ultan Dillane is a good example, of guys who are starting to feed in, starting to apply some of that pressure and hopefully that will drive on the guys who are currently there or, let’s be honest, they’ll drive past them and they’ll get the jerseys.

“So it’s very competitive, hopefully, and a longer-term view.”

Comprehensive from Schmidt and certainly encouraging for Ringrose, O’Donoghue, Dooley and the many other promising young players currently impressing for the four Irish provinces.

Schmidt is always watching.

Joe Schmidt with Brian O'Driscoll O'Driscoll is an increasingly influential voice in punditry. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Will he be asking O’Driscoll to consider his words twice?

“No, he dropped me a text just to say that he thought Garry Ringrose was making really good progress,” says Schmidt. “I’d have pretty good banter with Drico at any given time, so it’s not something that is a distraction.

“As I said before, we try to work within the bubble that’s productive and what’s most productive is trying to get a squad that has a balance to it, trying to make sure that we have players who are physically ready and have the experience to go in and compete in what is an incredibly tough championship and so it is a fine balance.

“I’d be the first to say there’s no way that I get every decision right because I don’t think any human does. What you try to do is, if you work harder than anyone else to have a look at the person’s game, to communicate with that person and get a sense of where they’re at and what they can feel confident doing and then you make the decision.

“One of the advantages for me is that I have access to all that information and the player to try and base those decisions upon and even then I don’t get it right. Some of the time hopefully I do.”

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Murray Kinsella

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