New captain, new head coach, new assistant coaches, five uncapped players and four ‘development players’ – there’s a sense of turning the page as Ireland head into the 2020 Six Nations.
Andy Farrell named his first Six Nations squad on Wednesday and the new head coach is starting off his tenure in his typical no-nonsense approach by excluding some big names such as Rob Kearney, Sean Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Stuart McCloskey and Rhys Ruddock to name but a few.
Ireland supporters are already feverishly debating the rights and wrongs of Farrell’s inclusions and omissions but one thing is for certain, it looks like the Wigan native isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
Five uncapped players have been included and there are some notable exclusions 👀https://t.co/i1iT6EG7bA
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) January 15, 2020
One man who was always destined to be in the squad was Garry Ringrose. The 24-year-old has been in superb form since he returned from the World Cup scoring eight tries in his six appearances for Leinster so far this season.
Ringrose is likely to be the focal point of Ireland’s midfield for years to come and Farrell will be hoping that the centre can continue his try-scoring exploits in blue in a green jersey when they welcome Scotland to the Aviva Stadium in just over two weeks’ time.
For Ringrose, like many of the squad, it will be a new experience. The centre made his international debut under Joe Schmidt so it will be interesting to see how he and his teammates evolve in the new regime.
One thing the squad will be desperate to do is to exorcise the demons of not only the World Cup, but all of 2019 which included a disappointing Six Nations.
“Yeah, it’s an exciting time. I think for everyone, not that there’s been much dwelling on the World Cup but I think, obviously the last outing, being unsuccessful, there’s an excitement there to get back out and try and write a couple of wrongs and get back to winning ways,” Ringrose said at PwC’s partnership renewal with the IRFU.
The Blackrock native is adamant that Ireland don’t need to reinvent the wheel going into the Six Nations, it’s more of a case of evolving their game and maintaining the cornerstone of their play which is commitment.
“There was no massive changes between being successful and then being unsuccessful. It’s not about reinventing the wheel. Granted there was criticism and stuff but commitment is not something that has ever been questioned so everyone is committed to try and be the best they can and be successful.
“It’s that mindset of doing whatever you can so I mightn’t change too much what I have done or that the group has done on a collective scale. It is constantly about trying to evolve and get better and learn as much as possible, and still every day I train I’d learn something new.
“I used to always learn from more senior guys, but certainly now in Leinster there are younger guys coming up through the Academy that I’m picking stuff off and seeing how they do things, seeing how fearless some of them are in training, and then with the guys who get their chance in matches, it’s evident.”
That mindset, that want to be better will be driven by the new captain, Johnny Sexton. Rory Best was a huge presence among the squad and even Ringrose admits it was weird not seeing the hooker at the small weekend camp before Christmas although if one man can help bring Ireland on to new heights then it’s his provincial colleague.
“It was weird being at that camp and Besty not being there. You expected him almost to be there. It was a funny one.”
“As a supporter, I watched him [Sexton] when I was younger, and I still consider myself lucky to play alongside him based on what he has achieved and what he’s going to keep doing.
“He’s been a brilliant captain at Leinster and there was no dispute at Leinster when Isa [Nacewa] left, who the next man for the job was, and he’s taken that over brilliantly.
“He’s obviously a quality player in himself but the competitive nature, [it] just brings the best out of people around him. Second best isn’t acceptable, which is the mindset you need to have, and he’s someone who drives that.”
Ringrose will be hoping to continue his good form when Leinster play their final Champions Cup pool game against Benetton on Sunday before he joins up with the Ireland squad next week as preparations ramp up for the Six Nations opener with Scotland.
PwC ambassador Garry Ringrose was speaking at the company’s partnership renewal announcement with the IRFU, which took place in Aviva Stadium on Wednesday.
The extension comprises key sponsorships of the Men’s International U20s, U19s and U18s teams and, new under this contract, the U18s Women’s and Men’s Interprovincial Championships. PwC is now also the main sponsor of the National Training Squad programme.