Garry Ringrose insists he’s not really thinking about Ireland jersey

Talk of an Ireland call continues to swirl like dust around his feet but Garry Ringrose has a few boxes to tick in the Champions Cup before he can start to wonder whether Joe Schmidt has any immediate plans for him.
Garry Ringrose insists he’s not really thinking about Ireland jersey

Leinster’s highly-rated 21-year-old centre played 22 times for the province last season, one he finished as first choice outside-centre, but Europe remains a testing ground on which he has had limited exposure.

Nine minutes off the bench in the opening pool loss at home to Wasps and a full 80 in the cakewalk against Bath in January was his lot last term.

He could do with more than that before facing the All Blacks, the Wallabies or even Canada.

“It is an approach I take to not look too far ahead, I’m not really thinking about Ireland,” he said. “What will happen will happen. The way Europe went last year, we want to top the group. I’m not really looking too far past that.”

Leinster will look to bury last year’s Euro demons on Saturday when they open this year’s account against Castres. Optimism is plentiful on the back of a fine start to the season and their Guinness PRO12 defeat of Munster last weekend.

That game was notable for being Robbie Henshaw’s first in a blue shirt following his summer switch from Connacht and subsequent injury issues and Ringrose’s midfield partner came through the full outing with no issues.

So too did Rob Kearney after his own, shorter absence though there is, as always, mixed news on the injury front this week with Dave Kearney and Mike McCarthy rated uncertain ahead of the first French test.

One man definitely out —until at least the New Year by the looks of it — is Fergus McFadden due to a quad injury but Sean O’Brien is edging towards full fitness and a decision on his availability this week will probably be taken today.

If fit, O’Brien would have to start back slowly, off the bench. The odds are Ringrose and Henshaw will again link up outside Jonathan Sexton from the off after their first game in tandem three days ago delivered an impressive collective display and only the odd individual error.

Chief among them was Ringrose’s inability to gather a grubber from Sexton with the Munster line a mere metre or two away. The youngster joked afterwards he was in for a sleepless night. It was, he admitted yesterday, a touch embarrassing given it happened in front of a 40,000 crowd and on live TV but Leinster attack coach Girvan Dempsey was delighted with his player’s immediate reaction.

“Everyone has those, it’s only natural,” Dempsey reasoned. “You saw how he reacted. He parked it. There was no point dwelling on it. Next ball ... He’s smart enough and experienced enough to know that it can happen to anyone.”

Dempsey was more than happy with his new central tandem in fact and the manner in which Henshaw, who was understandably nervous last week, slotted in on his debut bodes well for both Leinster and Ireland. If there was a quibble it was in the narrowness of some of the team’s attacking. Both Leo Cullen and Dempsey have accepted that more width and variation will be required ahead of Castres and the trip to Montpellier the week after.

Montpellier actually overcame Castres at home last weekend and the visit to Dublin will be the latter’s third straight road trip having also fallen short in Clermont Auvergne after a home victory against Top 14 champions Racing 92.

Dempsey spoke glowingly of Christophe Urios’ side’s efforts this last few weeks but the fact is Castres have an awful record in Europe in recent times - especially away from France - even if Ringrose is primed for events in his own department.

“They’re very good with (Robert) Ebersohn and (Thomas) Combezou,” he said. “They put a lot of pressure on you. Typical of the Top 14, there’s not a lot of space. When you have the ball, they fly off the line. They’re big men and put in imposing tackles. You have to bring you’re A-game in attack. On defence, both of them are very good footballers and they come with the size and physicality to back it up.”

Meanwhile, the IRFU has confirmed the November 19 and 26 games at the Aviva Stadium, against New Zealand and Australia respectively, have now sold out. Tickets are still available for the November 12 tie v Canada.

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