He’ll be 22 no more than a week when the whistle sounds in Edinburgh tomorrow on his first Six Nations appearance, but the wonder isn’t how Garry Ringrose has come to this so early but why it has taken quite so long.
Some careers seem tailor-made for signposts so significant and it is 14 months since the centre tripped the light fantastic in Limerick against Munster and prompted Brian O’Driscoll to tweet that maybe a start against Wales in the approaching 2016 championship opener might be an idea.
Ringrose was blistering that evening at Thomond Park.
There was an assuredness on the ball that belied any youth and inexperience, the acceleration that torched Dave Foley and the sashay that did for Jack O’Donoghue as he set up Isa Nacewa’s try and a no-fuss defensive shift that all smacked of O’Driscoll in his prime.
All this on just his eighth provincial appearance.
Joe Schmidt held fire at the time and opted instead to let the youngster concentrate on his apprenticeship with Leinster but a debut against Canada and appearances against New Zealand and Australia were all banked last November. Now, with Jared Payne still injured, his time has come.
Expectation is a given even if he can take it or leave it.
“No, like, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aware of it. There is an element of just taking it on board and then just brushing it off really and just focusing on what the coaches - whether it’s at Leinster or Ireland - want and then even just rubbing shoulders with the senior players.
“I mean, at the end of the day, I’ve only three caps for Ireland so I know I’ve a lot to learn and ups and downs ahead. So it’s just about trying to learn and get better as much as possible in the now as opposed to being too focused on the future.” Truth be told, it’s probably better this way.
He wasn’t long out of school when Schmidt first invited him into the senior Ireland camp out in Kildare but he has appreciated the baby steps required to get from there to here: Leinster U20s, Ireland U19s and 20s, Leinster ‘A’s and through to the seniors.
It’s been an organic process and his partnership with Robbie Henshaw with the province this season has been equally natural. It bodes well for them both, and for Ireland, as they team up in the midfield today in Payne’s extended absence.
“It’s brilliant getting to play with him. You kind of forget how young he is with the amount of experience he has. It’s a luxury really at Leinster to get a chance to play outside him because he’s just so good and I’m still learning off him in training and in matches, any opportunity I can.” One of Ringrose’s toughest days in his nascent pro career actually came in opposition to Henshaw. It was during last May’s Guinness PRO12 final when the latter was still at Connacht but there has been a more recent glitch recorded, too.
Leinster were lucky to escape Castres with a draw in the Champions Cup two weeks ago and, though Ringrose caught the eye with some of his trademark attacking ability, there were a few turnovers conceded and tackles missed that blotted the copybook.
O’Driscoll has begged off comparisons between himself and Ringrose repeatedly but the temptation to see like for like extends off the field where the younger man is displaying the same straight bat with the media and the legendary 13 made an art form of that.
Tomorrow is the time to talk.
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