Schmidt backs Ringrose's 'temperament and skill base' to fit in at out-half

The 24-year-old is named in the number 22 jersey for Saturday’s trip to Cardiff.

VERSATILITY IS KEY in this numbers game, and Joe Schmidt’s decision to name Garry Ringrose as his out-half cover for Saturday’s game against Wales may provide a telling insight into the head coach’s World Cup thought process.

With Joey Carbery sidelined, Johnny Sexton held back for another week and Ross Byrne still feeling the effects of a bruising first Test start at Twickenham, Ringrose is named in the number 22 jersey behind Jack Carty this weekend.

garry-ringrose Ringrose is named on the bench for Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Although Will Addison, who starts at fullback in his first game since January, also offers cover in the pivot position, Schmidt has backed Ringrose’s ‘temperament and skill base’ to slot in if required at the Millennium Stadium. 

Having won all of his 22 caps in the Ireland midfield, the Leinster centre played some of his schoolboy rugby at out-half for Blackrock College and has kept on top of his placekicking skills, memorably landing a touchline conversion against USA in June 2017.

“As regards the out-half cover, we’ve got a couple of guys,” Schmidt said. “Will is one of them. Garry Ringrose is the other.

“Garry has played a bit of out-half as a schoolboy. He has a temperament and a skill base that would allow him to fit in there.”

Ringrose is one of 10 players retained in Schmidt’s matchday 23 from last week’s humbling at the hands of England — a performance described as ‘unacceptable’ by the head coach — with just four players given a shot at redemption in the starting XV.

Peter O’Mahony moves to the openside and captains Ireland in a new-look back row unit alongside Tadhg Beirne and Leinster’s Jack Conan, who makes his seasonal re-appearance in a long-awaited chance to show his worth at number eight.

Joining Conan in earning their first hit-outs of pre-season are Dave Kilcoyne, Addison and James Ryan, while Carty and Kieran Marmion are set to bring their Connacht half-back partnership to the Test arena.

Speaking at this afternoon’s team announcement, Schmidt insisted it was always in the plan to ring the changes — 11 alterations in personnel — for this third warm-up game against Warren Gatland’s side [KO 2.30pm, Channel 4].

“It was always the plan,” the head coach explained. “We’ve got to try and best prepare our 31 to have had a bit of game time and have a bit of rhythm. You saw what it was like when a team has had a couple of games and a team hasn’t played [last Saturday in London].

“You’re not suddenly at top speed, you need a bit of a hit-out, maybe two hit-outs before you’re up to speed.

joe-schmidt Schmidt speaking at Carton House this afternoon. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“For us, it’s probably the forwards, the bigger guys, that need to have a few runs under their belt. Some of our backs played pretty well first up and that gives us a little bit of comfort around the likes of Johnny, Robbie [Henshaw] and Keith Earls, who are all highly likely to play next week, but not this week.”

As for the inclusion of the likes of Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong on the bench, Schmidt said that the pair were keen to get back out on the pitch after ‘they were a bit off last week.’

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He continued: “Part of that formula is that they were very keen to get back in and get involved. They felt they were a bit off last week and you don’t need to be far off against a good team to suddenly be chasing their tails.

“They felt it would help their preparation if they got a little bit more time this week and we’d be looking at potentially giving them 25-30 minutes. That would be the plan, but at the first contact, the plan can change. That will help build them into the following week and hopefully springboard them beyond that should they be selected.” 

Overall, Schmidt is confident of a much-improved performance this weekend.

“I have seen it lift, I do believe we’re in a better place to actually play rugby now, rather than prepare to play rugby,” he added. “And I think there will be evidence of that, but as you said, the confirmation of that doesn’t come until we get through to the final whistle on Saturday and we see how players have performed.

“We’ve trained well this morning and that gives us a little bit of confidence that we’ll very much be a step ahead of where we were last week.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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