Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Cian Tracey

Why Garry Ringrose could succeed Johnny Sexton as the next Ireland captain

Leinster's Garry Ringrose evades the tackle of Ulster's Tom O'Toole on his way to scoring his side's third try during their recent URC clash at the RDS Arena. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The tactical innovation that Stuart Lancaster has brought to Leinster is clear for all to see, but what often gets overlooked, is his influence away from the pitch, particularly in how he, along with Leo Cullen, have helped develop a new cohort of leaders.

When Lancaster first arrived at Leinster back in 2016, he noticed that a lot of the players were quiet and reserved by nature. Ever since then, he has made a point of encouraging the introverts to step out of their shells.

Andy Farrell adopted a similar approach upon taking over as Ireland head coach, as he assigned a new-look leadership group that was made of natural leaders, and others who were less so.

Johnny Sexton, Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and James Ryan fit the former category, whereas Tadhg Furlong and Garry Ringrose were less obvious choices.

Although it is still a long way off, Farrell will be planning Sexton’s successor as Ireland captain following next year’s World Cup.

As Munster and Ulster skippers, O’Mahony and Henderson will be in the mix, as will Ryan, who has filled in for Sexton on occasion.

Furlong was a wildcard selection as captain for last month’s win over Fiji, but for all that the Wexford native relished the honour, even he suggested at the time that, as a tighthead prop with his head buried in scrums and rucks for much of the game, it may have been more of a once-off thing, as he led a less-experienced side.

Then there is Ringrose, who has now emerged as a dark horse to take over as Ireland captain on the back of climbing up the Leinster captaincy pecking order.

Ringrose has always been touted as a special talent, yet he has never consistently been a captain, even as far back as his schooldays in Blackrock, or as an underage international.

It spoke volumes for Cullen and Lancaster’s faith in the outside centre, who turns 28 next month, that he was entrusted to captain Leinster for the first time in the 2020 PRO14 final win over Ulster.

The coaches clearly saw something in Ringrose’s leadership skills back then, which is why he has been the go-to man when Sexton has been absent.

Anyone who has ever listened in on an interview with Ringrose will know that he is a steady hand who doesn’t give much away, but in the dressing-room, his voice carries serious weight.

So much of that is down to the fact that he very rarely delivers below an 8/10 performance, with his levels going even higher during Leinster’s last two wins over Racing 92 and Ulster.

​Ringrose’s display at the RDS a fortnight ago was inspirational, as at a time when his team needed him most, he stepped up and steered them to a stunning comeback victory over Ulster.

Last weekend in Le Havre, there was more of the same, defensively strong, he finished off a stunning team score, his clever decoy line helping to open up the gap for Leinster to run in an early shout for try of the season.

Leinster made light work of their travel nightmare in getting to the French venue, with Ringrose apparently playing a key role behind the scenes in ensuring that the players remained on task, despite the disruption.

“He’s exceptional at his job, on and off the field,” says winger James 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!”

Lowe’s point about his dealings with referees is key, as Ringrose is coolness personified, which is an increasingly important trait.

His team-mates, both in Leinster and Ireland, speak very highly of how the 47-times capped midfielder commands the respect of the room.

Farrell is well-aware of how Ringrose is growing in stature, and although he hasn’t yet skippered his country, the Ireland boss may be inclined to change that considering he is now Leinster’s back-up captain to Sexton.

Farrell will have strong options to pick from when the time comes to name a new skipper for the next World Cup cycle. For a while, that looked to be Ryan, but Ringrose is now also a genuine contender.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.