Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll thinks it’s looking increasingly likely that Garry Ringrose will find himself on the bench for the World Cup opener against Scotland on September 22.
Ireland have four out-and-out centres in their 31-man squad for the World Cup; Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell.
Joe Schmidt has trialled four different centre partnerships throughout the summer series; Farrell & Ringrose (Italy), Aki & Ringrose (England), Aki & Farrell (Wales) and most recently on Saturday, Aki & Henshaw (Wales).
There is no doubt that the most successful of those partnerships occurred against Warren Gatland’s side on Saturday as the return of Robbie Henshaw in the 13 channel, in what was his first appearance of the season, proved incredibly effective.
The Athlone native was aggressive in defence while also providing a threat with ball-in-hand and his understanding with Aki proved a dangerous weapon for Schmidt’s side.
The Ireland head coach has often spoken about Ringrose’s versatility and he has been included as the 22nd and 23rd man in the two recent outings against Warren Gatland’s side.
It looks like the writing is on the wall for Ringrose to be on the bench for the clash with Scotland and this is something which O’Driscoll agrees with.
“It looks increasingly more likely, largely because I thought he’d play at the weekend if he was first choice,” O’Driscoll said at the launch of Guinness as the official sponsor of the Belief campaign.
“His tackling stats probably don’t stack up…he has a lot of misses, but a lot of it is shutting down potential threats and getting the cover to pick up another tackle or finish one-off.
“I don’t think he’s quite at the Garry Ringrose level we’ve seen over the last couple of years. So he’ll be a bit nervous that he’ll be on the bench given the partnership Bundee and Robbie have had since down in Connacht.
“They seem to go quite well and have a good understanding, good offloading game to one another, good defensively. So if you were a betting man you’d probably think that might be the starting centre pairing.”
Henshaw had many standout moments against Wales on Saturday, one of which was when he shot out of the line and hit Ross Moriarty well behind the gainline as he cut out a dangerous looking wide Welsh attack.
Whether Ringrose could make the same tackle as effectively is up for debate but there’s no doubt that Henshaw’s size and physicality will be a great strength in what is expected to be a very attritional World Cup with a high ball-in-play time.
“He (Henshaw) doesn’t miss many tackles. I don’t know his stats, but watching him he doesn’t miss many.
“His scramble is really exceptional.
“Having one of your best defenders is a real luxury. I think Garry’s a brilliant reader of it, but Robbie’s another level of a defender because he has the aggression and the size in the hit to come with that. That element of telepathy, I don’t know what the chat is like with Garry, but you feel a real cohesion with Bundee and Robbie.”
Today GUINNESS shows its support for the Irish rugby team as they depart for Japan, by unveiling its new campaign as the Official Sponsors of Belief. GUINNESS has partnered with Ireland’s No. 1 Believer, Brian O’Driscoll, (pictured at the Guinness Storehouse) to highlight the importance of belief and showcase the reasons to believe.