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Analysis: Captaincy adds to Garry Ringrose's ever-growing repertoire

The Leinster man has been excellent in recent weeks and will be key against Saracens.

GARRY RINGROSE ISN’T a loud guy off the pitch. Roaring and screaming in the changing room? Not his thing.

Indeed, the Leinster and Ireland centre is a calm and polite young man away from the heat of the battle.

He doesn’t fit the old stereotype of what a captain should be and yet Ringrose has developed into a leader for Leinster to the extent that he had a (C) alongside his name for the first time on the team sheet in last weekend’s Guinness Pro14 final win over Ulster.

garry-ringrose-celebrates-with-the-guinness-pro14-trophy-after-the-game Ringrose with the Pro14 trophy last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Having taken over the duties from Johnny Sexton after the out-half was replaced in previous games, 25-year-old Ringrose added this latest achievement to his ever-growing CV. 

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster has done lots of work with Ringrose and other players in the squad around leadership, encouraging the more introverted characters to voice their opinions in meetings and back themselves to be vocal out on the pitch. It doesn’t have to be ‘manic aggression‘ stuff but everyone is welcome to speak up.

While his own individual rugby and mental skills have continued to develop, Ringrose’s influence on those around him has grown too.

And more importantly than anything, Ringrose is leading with his actions more than ever before. He is playing with bite and aggression, delivering infectious work-rate, and making good decisions. While he and Leinster will feel there is much more to come from them, Ringrose has been an impressive performer in recent weeks.

A captain must lead by example and Ringrose has been doing as much with his defensive efforts.

We get an example below in last weekend’s final, with Leinster defending just a few metres from their tryline.

P1

This goes down as a ‘missed tackle’ on most stats sheets but we have to consider whether it’s a bad piece of defence from Ringrose. He tends to end up with a few missed tackles in some the post-game stats and while a few of them can be weak efforts, many are actually good defending.

Obviously, it would be ideal if he completed a tackle on Rob Herring a couple of metres behind the gainline in this instance, but Leinster do end up with an overall win as Ringrose’s linespeed funnels the Ulster hooker back in to Andrew Porter.

Had Ringrose hesitated here, Herring would have had an option to pass but instead the Leinster captain shuts him down, then immediately springs back to his feet. On the very next phase, he completes a tackle.

P2

Again, Ringrose’s presence is crucial as he provides security on Hugo Keenan’s inside shoulder and then tackles James Hume.

He gets his head on the wrong side of the tackle, potentially exposing him to head injury, but the effort from Ringrose here to spring back to his feet, reload in defence, then make a tackle to deny Ulster the gainline for a second consecutive phase is typical.

We get another example of Ringrose making two tackles in two phases later in the game below.

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Leinster are experts at having 14 or 15 players on their feet ready to defend and Ringrose’s energy to get back into the line after his first tackle above underlines that.

Ringrose is a very intelligent defender and he tends to make sharp reads of the opposition attack, as we see below.

Read Hit

Ulster run a basic screen or ‘blocker’ play with Hume starting behind out-half Billy Burns and then bouncing out the back of the decoy-running Michael Lowry. 

The temptation for Ringrose is to bite in [yellow below] on Lowry’s run [red].

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But Ringrose has a strong understanding with centre partner Robbie Henshaw and senses that the Leinster 12 will be able to deal with the threat of Lowry if Burns passes short and flat.

Having initially come forward off the defensive line, Ringrose briefly slows his progress but importantly never completely plants his feet. With Henshaw on his inside, Ringrose reads off Lowry and out the back onto Hume.

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Having made the read, Ringrose then plants his left shoulder into Hume’s thighs and wraps around the Ulsterman’s legs to complete a tackle that allows James Lowe and Henshaw to counter-ruck, with the breakdown out on the edge of Leinster’s defence.

Ringrose has always made good reads out the back but hasn’t always been ultra-consistent in sticking the tackle once he gets there.

Again, his ‘missed tackles’ in these instances can often be good defence as he shuts down the wide attack and funnels the defenders back inside for an overall defensive gain or into Leinster’s jackaling threats, but perfectionist Ringrose will also be keen to finish more of these kinds of tackles.

Sometimes, Ringrose’s good defensive work doesn’t even involve tackling at all. He’s consistently hard-working on kick chase, as we see below when Henshaw [white] kicks out of the Leinster half.

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1

Ringrose [red] gets upfield at pace here to shut off Ulster fullback Lowry’s option of passing out to his right as he looks to create something on kick return.

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Instead, Lowry has to carry himself and just a phase later, Leinster get a turnover as Ulster make a forward pass.

Ringrose contributes a huge amount of this kind of off-the-ball work and it’s another reason he is so valued within the Leinster squad.

The Dublin man’s ability with ball in hand is well known at this stage, with his footwork a real threat for Leinster and Ireland.

Even if he’s not making clean breaks, Ringrose’s ability to beat or unsettle defenders with his running threat is a major attacking weapon for both teams.

Feet

Above, we see Ringrose using his footwork to get outside Jacob Stockdale and briefly lure Lowry inwards, meaning Henshaw has time on the ball as Ringrose offloads.

The subtle work from Ringrose allows Leinster to make forward progress and then, after initially offering himself in the very narrow shortside, the centre works infield to ask another question of the defence.

11

Ringrose sets up on the inside of out-half Ross Byrne and makes a threatening dart on the inside pass option, drawing an off-the-ball tackle from Ulster’s Sean Reidy.

Hit

Byrne kicks three points from that penalty to send Leinster into a 13-5 lead.

Ringrose has worked very hard on his kicking game in recent years and his touches with the boot have been prominent during Leinster’s Pro14 run-in.

Expanding their kicking threat was one of Leinster’s main focuses during lockdown and we’ve seen how the likes of Henshaw and Ringrose are ensuring that everything doesn’t run through Johnny Sexton in this area.

Ringrose has a particularly good grubber-kicking game, with one example below.

Kick

Leinster use a slick set-piece play from a left-hand-side lineout here and Ringrose makes a good decision on the ball.

With the threat of Leinster’s width on the passing attack, Ulster fullback Lowry [white below] closes up from the backfield onto the left edge of his team’s defence.

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Running with the ball in two hands to give himself options, Ringrose waits for Lowry to advance up and then rolls the grubber kick into the vacated space.

Ulster right wing Rob Lyttle now has to cover all the way across from the right-hand side of the backfield to gather in the ball, with Leinster’s chase right on top of him as he gets back to his feet. Ulster are left in a very difficult position and their hasty exit kick to touch leaves Leinster with an attacking lineout just eight metres out. 

Ringrose’s decision-making has always been good and, as Leinster prepare for Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens, he will be keen to nail every decision he’s presented with.

In last season’s European final, we saw a very uncharacteristic error from Ringrose in this department as he failed to pass with a big overlap outside him in what was a pivotal moment in the game.

Ringrose

Leinster and Ringrose learned some important lessons in that final against Saracens and will be determined to show they are better this time around.

The continuing development of Ringrose’s kicking game, along with his ever-improving defensive qualities, and his growing leadership skills underline that he is still very much a player on the rise.

Already one of the first names onto the Leinster and Ireland team sheets, as well as a possible Lions tourist next summer after narrowly missing out in 2017, it’s exciting to think there may be even more to come from Ringrose.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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