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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Commanding Garry Ringrose a top candidate to succeed Johnny Sexton as skipper when the time comes

When the day comes that Johnny Sexton hangs up his boots for good, Leinster and Ireland will need to have a captaincy plan in place.

The day will still probably be the end date for Ireland's France 2023 World Cup journey, though Sexton did prise open the door for a career extension during the November series.

Sexton is practically irreplaceable in terms of the drive he brings to a team, but Leo Cullen and Andy Farrell will have to fill the void. There will be some contenders to step up.

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It remains to be seen whether Munster's leader Peter O'Mahony will carry on beyond the World Cup. James Ryan will be in contention. Ulster skipper Iain Henderson will be in the mix.

Having skippered Ireland for the first time against Fiji, Tadhg Furlong might fancy another shot at the leadership role.

And then there's Garry Ringrose, who has led Leinster impressively over the past couple of weeks in Sexton's absence, as he has done before.

“For me personally, it (captaincy) sits really well with him," said Ringrose's Leinster colleague Michael Ala'alatoa.

"As you know, he is someone who is very calm in the moment. He leads by his actions and he'll only say something if it needs to be addressed.

“Every time he speaks, he's someone that commands a lot of respect and you want to listen to. I think every time he has had the captain's armband on, he has been awesome for us.

“He has been leading by example, you can just see it in the last two weeks, he is playing out of his skin. You only want to follow a guy like that.”

Ala'alatoa points to the "awesome job" done by head coach Cullen and Ringrose in maintaining the squad's focus during their delayed trip to face Racing 92 last week, an effort that yielded a striking 42-10 triumph. Ringrose played a captain's role.

"They kept us on task to make sure that we had enough touch points, enough meetings to cover off all the detail we needed to, so we were still confident going into the game," said the Samoa prop.

“When we woke up on Saturday morning, it was just business as usual. We were up and ready to go.”

Ringrose's Leinster and Ireland colleague James Lowe describes him as a quiet individual who nevertheless shows real leadership qualities.

“He’s exceptional at his job on and off the field," said Lowe. "Someone who doesn’t have to speak necessarily to lead as well.

"He broke his jaw a couple of times from kick pressure – like, I mean, I’m not throwing my face at someone’s foot, man - and that pretty much sums him up.

"He does talk and you probably don’t see it as much if you’re not inside the environment but he is definitely someone who has a very thorough, thought-out process and every day is probably structured into where he is going to show his leadership.

"Pre-meetings, even, that sort of thing. He is pretty good at handling a ref as well - probably more so than Sexto anyway!”.

Ala'alatoa is expected to get the nod to continue at tighthead in place for tonight's second round pool clash with Gloucester at the RDS, with Tadhg Furlong still recuperating from an ankle injury.

Leinster’s Michael Ala'alatoa acknowledges the home fans at the RDS (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

The 31-year-old has been in excellent form this season, while admitting it took him a full first season to get up to speed with Leinster's demands.

"Now that I’ve been here for a year, that confidence comes a lot earlier in the week," said Ala'alatoa.

"But last year I was probably getting to captain’s run and still going over things in my head around my role and what I needed to do to be my best. Now with all that clarity it’s coming a lot earlier in the week so it’s a lot easier."

The aim is to keep building, especially on the back of last weekend's massive result.

“We mean business all the time," he stated. "We felt short last year and the goal is obviously to win the big one.

“In saying that, every week is different and I go back to winning each moment - this week it's another moment that we want to win.

“We know the threats that Gloucester possesses, so we are treating them with all of the respect that they deserve. We're going to go after them as best we can.”

Off the field, too, life is good. “Dublin, I have adjusted to life here too," he smiled.

"It's obviously a lot colder compared to this time last year but I am actually enjoying being in the snow.

“I have probably seen snow like three times in my whole life, so I have been embracing it. Getting amongst it, it's good.”


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