Luke Fitzgerald – 'I think he's going to be on the bench but I don't like it. This is even worse than Devin Toner'
Luke Fitzgerald thinks it would be a mistake for Ireland to omit Garry Ringrose from their World Cup pool opener against Scotland.
Ringrose was selected on the bench for Ireland’s last two World Cup warm-up games against Wales, with Joe Schmidt preferring the centre partnership of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw against Warren Gatland’s men at the Aviva Stadium last time out.
The duo, who previously formed a devastating pairing while at Connacht, are now widely tipped to face Scotland in Ireland’s first World Cup game in Japan – with Ringrose likely to take the number 23 jersey.
The Leinster outside centre plays with Henshaw at club level, but could have to be content with a starting berth later in the tournament, possibly against Japan six days after the Scotland game.
However, speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Aldi, Fitzgerald strongly disagreed with the possibility of Ringrose not starting, and would prefer a Henshaw/Ringrose centre pairing.
“I don’t like it but I think that is what he is going to do,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think he [Ringrose] is going to be on the bench. The playmaking ability is something that is going to hurt him because he hasn’t developed it and he has the capability to do it. They are going to pick a guy who is 16 stone ahead of him, albeit he is an excellent player.
“There is a guy who has come all the way up through the system, this is even worse than Devin Toner.
“That is really going to annoy me watching that. Why do we have a superstar in the making in Garry Ringrose, who has had a few blips playing in the best team in the country in Leinster [not in the team]? The guy is more creative.
“If we are judging it off those warm-up matches, two or three of those off set-piece [against England], Bundee Aki sold out the rest of the backline. Everyone is talking about Jacob Stockdale, he sold them down the river.
“He is going to get away with it because Garry isn’t playing well. I just think it is wrong. I am pissed off about that. It really doesn’t sit well with me. This guy [Ringrose] is class. I think he is going to get punished for not developing a few parts of his game. It pisses me off.”
Irish Independent rugby correspondent Ruaidhri O’Connor thinks that Ringrose could be a potent weapon off the bench, in particular against tired defences late on.
“I quite like the idea of after 55 minutes, bringing Garry Ringrose off the bench to find holes,” O’Connor added.
“That space, against tired bodies, might make him look very good. Like the back row, I think he will rotate this throughout the tournament. The idea that Garry Ringrose is on the bench for Ireland is a strong indication of the options that are there. I think they will lose in creativity but gain in line speed.”
However, on the topic of Ringrose’s recent defensive lapses, Fitzgerald said that the presence of Henshaw inside him would go a long way to shoring up those shortcomings.
“Henshaw is the key in that – not Aki,” Fitzgerald said of Ireland’s improved line speed against Wales.
“I have been banging this drum for a long time about Henshaw and his line speed. He misses so few tackles. If you look at Leinster when they were winning everything, he makes Garry’s job so much easier. You look at how many tackles Garry has missed since he has been out of the team, I think it is no coincidence. All the decisions on the outside are easier.”
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