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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Schmidt: Garry can see the big picture

Italy coach O'Shea completely committed to Ireland's downfall

Cian Healy arrives for Ireland squad training at Carton House yesterday
Cian Healy arrives for Ireland squad training at Carton House yesterday
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell with Garry Ringrose during Ireland squad training at Carton House yesterday. Pics: Sportsfile

For Joe Schmidt, trust is always earned never given.

It is his forensic opinion that the most difficult position in which to defend, that of outside centre, should be taken up by his youngest, most inexperienced player.

Twenty-two year old Garry Ringrose has been thrust into the spotlight by reason of his stellar form for Leinster this season and his adaptability for Ireland at twelve in November.

He is a bright young thing, in more ways than one.

Ireland's two most important backs are Jonathan Sexton and Jared Payne, quite simply for what they see, how they create problems in attack and solve them in defence.

With Sexton ruled out for the first two rounds of the Six Nations and Payne for all of it, the burden of decision-making at ten falls on Paddy Jackson and increases on Ringrose at thirteen.

Why does Schmidt ask the hardest questions of his most experienced back man?

"He is a smart kid. I think he's clever. He's got the ability, speed and agility to adjust late and if he doesn't get it quite right at first, he can get it right," said the Ireland coach.

The comparisons with Brian O'Driscoll are premature, unfounded and, ultimately, forever unwarranted.

They are essentially two different types of players playing in two eras such has been the accelerated change in the game since the turn of the century.

"I think one of the best defenders in that outside channel, ever, was Drico," said Schmidt.

"But, he didn't suddenly come in the first time in and get everything right.

"No one, even if you've been in for a while, gets everything right.

"But the more often you do it, the more likely you are to know what the pictures look like and get it right.

The analytical mind of the New Zealander quickly moved into gear, calling up the example of Stuart Hogg's second try.

"One of the times that they went down that left wing and scored, Garry had been in the previous tackle. He wasn't out there.

"It's never the same picture every time."

Schmidt pointed to how Ringrose is not inclined to repeat his mistakes and grows with every minute in the green shirt.

"Just before the end of the first half, he got through onto Finn Russell, put him under pressure," added Schmidt.

"They shoveled the ball out under pressure, Simon Zebo gets the intercept and away we go.

"We're going in the other direction when we were defending inside our 22 when it was 21-8 at the time.

"In the second half, he got through and made really positive reads and positive tackles.

"We want to give Garry as many opportunities to do that because we think he's capable of doing it.

"He's intelligent. He does his homework and he has the physical prowess to be able to do it."

In typical fashion, Schmidt turned the attention away from the coaches when it was suggested the players owe the management not just a performance, but a resounding result.

He has chosen to offer second chances besides swapping Cian Healy for Jack McGrath and putting Donnacxha Ryan in for the injured Iain Henderson.

"They might owe something to themselves. It's their team," he said.

"They want to make sure that they deliver and they know that they have an opportunity and a responsibility to that this weekend."

"At the same time the coaching staff have a huge amount of confidence in them.

"They are very, very few times in my three and a half years doing this job that we've started sluggishly like that."

"The players are so good at getting themselves in the right frame of mind and the right physical shape and the right collective thinking that it is very rare that we don't start well.

"I'd hope that last weekend is an anomaly."

Coach Conor O'Shea was keen to hold up Ireland as a template for where Italy want to go.

"Ireland had some hard years, but they believed in a long-term project and are reaping the benefits.

"We are taking the same path," he said.

"Ireland is my home, my family, it's the place where we spend the holidays. It's the country where I grew up and where I always wanted to play.

"But now my only objective is Italian rugby. So I don't think of Ireland but only of us, Italy.

"We face a mountain to climb for 80 minutes."

O'Shea must have been a relieved man when his captain Sergio Parisse was given the medical all-clear.

Still, the cramped nature of a six-day turnaround from their defeat at home to Wales may have played a part in some of the four changes.

Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, second row Andries van Schalkwyk and openside Simone Favaro are formidable forwards and Angelo Esposito a dangerous wing.

They won't make it easy.

Italy: E Padovani; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, L McLean, G Venditti; C Canna, E Gori; A Lovotti, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, A Fuser, A van Schalkwyk, M Mbanda, S Favaro, S Parisse (capt).

Ireland: R Kearney; S Zebo, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong, D Toner, D Ryan, CJ Stander, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Verdict: Ireland

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