‘The ROG drop-kick… That was ’09, so I would’ve been in second year of school’

MOST PEOPLE INVOLVED in Irish rugby have a distinct memory of watching Ronan O’Gara’s 2009 drop-kick in the Millennium fly through the posts.

That said, some of the recollections may be a bit hazy due to the celebrations that followed Ireland’s second-ever Grand Slam success.

Ringrose makes his Six Nations debut tomorrow. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Rory Best, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip were all involved in Ireland’s matchday squad on that remarkable occasion, and the four of them are set to feature against Scotland tomorrow in the 2017 version of the Six Nations.

Garry Ringrose was still in second year at Blackrock College when O’Gara’s famous kick sailed over.

Asked for his earliest memories of the Six Nations ahead of his first appearance in the competition tomorrow, Ringrose mentions Girvan Dempsey’s 2004 try against England – when Ringrose was nine – and Shane Horgan’s effort against the English in 2007, before plumping for the O’Gara classic.

“It would be the Girvan Dempsey try or the one at Croke Park, Shane Horgan,” says Ringrose. “Jeez, I’m going back now. There’s a couple of them.

“Obviously, the Ronan O’Gara drop-kick at the Millennium Stadium stands out. That was in 2009, so I would have been in second year of school. That was probably the one that stands out.”

Ringrose turned 22 only eight days ago, but already he has been lauded as a star of the future – with legendary Ireland outside centre Brian O’Driscoll having gone as far as to call for his inclusion in the national team last season.

Leinster 13 Ringrose had to wait until last November to win his first three caps – against Canada, New Zealand and Australia – but he never felt like he was unfairly missing out.

Ringrose won three caps in November. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Even now, Ringrose just seems grateful to be getting a chance.

“It’s probably something I thought I wouldn’t get the opportunity to do this soon, to make my debut in the Six Nations. Excitement is the only thing I’m feeling at the moment.”

This week, O’Driscoll reiterated his belief that Ringrose has something other players don’t, and stressed that he could immediately see the youngster was different when he trained with Ireland in 2014.

Ringrose is not stupid – he’s aware of the hype around him and the widespread expectation that he will be an outstanding Test player.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aware of it,” says the UCD man. “There is an element of just taking it on board and then just brushing it off really and focusing on what the coaches – whether it’s at Leinster or Ireland – want.

“Then even just rubbing shoulders with the senior players – again at Leinster or Ireland – and focusing on what they want and any advice they’d offer, just trying to get better.

“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, hopefully. So it’s just trying to learn and get better as much as possible in the now, as opposed to being too focused on the future.”

There have certainly been blips, including a number of errors in Leinster’s draw with Castres last month, but Ringrose has passed many of the tests in his career so far, even impressing in the less familiar 12 shirt against Australia in Robbie Henshaw’s injury-enforced absence in November.

Ringrose at Carton House yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tomorrow, Ringrose will have Leinster team-mate Henshaw alongside him as they take on a Scotland centre pairing of Alex Dunbar and the exciting Huw Jones.

“It’s brilliant getting to play with him,” says Ringrose of partnering Henshaw. “You kind of forget how young he is with the amount of experience he has.

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“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.”

Ringrose understands the true force of Henshaw’s quality, having played against him in last season’s Pro12 final, before the 23-year-old’s move from Connacht.

“I was playing opposite him, so I learned a few hard lessons that day,” says Ringrose. “It wasn’t a great day for Leinster as a club, but it was a learning experience for me.

“I was able to review the game and take away not just improvements for myself, but also what they were doing that I should really be trying.

“I’m lucky enough to be playing alongside him now with Leinster and Ireland so that’s even better. Playing against him isn’t too fun.”

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