Comparisons between former Leinster and Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll and ‘new kid on the block’ Garry Ringrose have persisted, despite all and sundry playing down any such similarities.
The 22-year-old exploded onto the international stage in 2016 when he was chosen by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt for the November tests against New Zealand, Canada and Australia, scoring his first try for Ireland against the Wallabies.
Having been a heralded future star while at U20 level, Ringrose made his senior debut for Leinster in 2015 and in the 38 appearances he has made to date, the outside-centre has notched up nine tries.
A massively impressive Six Nations campaign for Ireland this spring catapulted his name into the list of contenders for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and though he was overlooked by Warren Gatland for the initial 41-man squad, there was a sense that he was not far off selection and could still feature, should the bruising tour take it’s toll next month.
Comparisons with O’Driscoll stem from the fact that both wear, and have worn, the No.13 jersey for Leinster and Ireland. More importantly, however, is the explosiveness both players share, in attack and defence.
Anyone denying their similarities on the pitch simply cannot hide the fact that they exist, as this incredible solo try from Ringrose against Clermont last month proves.
Now, O’Driscoll, in an interview with The Telegraph, has spoken of his ultimate successor, heaping praise on Ringrose and endorsing his Lions credentials.
When asked about the exciting centre getting a late call up to Gatland’s squad, the four-time Lion was clear,
“He is the man for all seasons. He’s fast over the ground. He has all the attributes to be a brilliant centre. He backs it up both ways; enjoying defence almost as much as attack. He’s a player I would love to have alongside me if I was a 12.”
“I sent him a text when the squad was announced saying I knew he would be really disappointed but there was a long way to go yet. A lot can change in two months.”
With Ringrose showing all the signs of being the future of Ireland’s outside-centre position, it is clear that the comparisons to the great O’Driscoll will continue. At only 22, there is, assuming he remains injury free, still over a decade of world class rugby awaiting the young Leinster man.
A new star at 13 has been born. The king is dead. Long live the king.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena