Garry Ringrose’s ability to duck and weave is not confined to the pitch.
The Leinster and Ireland centre is adept at evading the most awkward of questions when faced with the media and he bridged almost half an hour of a session yesterday with a diligence and an earnestness that refused to be ruffled.
Little though he gave away, we can say with almost complete certainty that, while his current contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he is the type of player to have won admiring glances from abroad, he is intent on staying in situ beyond this summer.
“Yeah, I’m certainly looking forward to this year... I usually narrow the focus to the nearest challenge in terms of, with Leinster, it’s getting picked to play on any given week and then to keep driving towards the ultimate goal.
“Then the same maybe with Ireland. I would obviously love to continue that for as long as I could.”
Ringrose is Mr Composed regardless of the query sent his way. He strikes as the sort of man who would be suited to bomb disposal, hostage negotiator, high financier or even player’s agent, though the last of those is not his bag right now.
Still only 24, he seems content to leave all that up to his agent, Niall Woods. His parents are free to chip in as well but Ringrose’s approach right now is to compartmentalise all that and dip in and out of any discussions as he sees fit.
Ideally, all this would be done long ago. Rob Kearney spoke in years gone by about his annoyance when contract negotiations bled over into the first month of the year and the Six Nations but this kid is a cool cat in that regard.
It goes without saying that Leinster and the IRFU want him to stay but it will be interesting to see who picks up the contract and how much it will be worth. His existing deal is taken care of by the province but a central contract is surely a must.
All of that is for the future and, while Ringrose is adamant about living in the present, there was a good deal of talk yesterday about the past and in particular, the six weeks or so he spent in Japan with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad.
He talked about ‘learnings’ rather than the disappointments and there is no urge to plunge into the innards of the big bad mess that was the World Cup.
Ask him to comment on Rory Best’s suggestion that the players were overloaded with information and he sails into less choppy waters.
“There was nothing drastically done different than what we had been doing. But obviously hindsight is 20/20, and it’s coulda-shoulda, you know that sort of way? I don’t know whether I’d say we were overloaded, I don’t have the experience to compare it to other World Cups.”
In fairness to Ringrose, he was one of Ireland’s best players in the Far East. Under more pressure than ever before for his midfield slot in the run-up to the tournament, he went on to produce some superb performances and that form has carried through with Leinster.
Andy Farrell has no shortage of options in the Ireland midfield as he takes over the team’s reins but something will have gone badly wrong if Ringrose doesn’t prove to be a staple of the side for the next four-year cycle.
There’s a wish expressed about “playing a bit more expansively” than before but its one qualified by the rider that best-laid plans are one thing and activation another and he doesn’t leave anyone hostage to fortune when asked to foretell how Farrell will play the new role of head coach.
“I don’t know. It’s a tricky question because he gets on with everyone in the squad and we’re all used to him. Obviously he’s extending beyond defence ... It will be interesting to pick his brain on the attacking front because I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity before that.”
New coach, new captain and, with the wounds from 2019 still raw, it could be a taxing campaign for an Irish side that must take on England and France away from home in the coming months.
“The motivation is to go and win the Six Nations but you don’t throw that around,” said Ringrose.
“You focus on what gets you there.”