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Tuesday 20 November 2018

Earls believes that Ringrose is better than he was at age of 23

Opinion: Keith Earls
Opinion: Keith Earls

Keith Earls knows all about the high price you can pay for being labelled.

He was once where Garry Ringrose was, last year in the Leinster centre's international breakout season. "Look, I suppose when Ringer was coming through and he was being compared to Drico, I remember saying 'oh god, that poor young fella.'

"I said there's nothing worse than that, you just need to leave him be himself."

Earls learned this from personal experience because there was a time when the same label was stuck to the Limerickman.

"I had been compared to Drico as well and it was the worst thing ever, because I was trying to be like Drico or trying to be better than Drico," he said.

"Ringer is a very quiet fella, he'll speak when he has to speak but his work rate off and on the field is phenomenal.

"He gets on with his job and he's a really intelligent fella. He's still young enough, 23.

"But I think he's definitely a lot better than I was when I was 23."

In terms of the centre, it is Ireland's improved depth that has limited the significance of the loss of Jared Payne and Garry Ringrose from last summer.

Payne has not played since career-threatening headaches have been near constant companions.

The Ulster centre returned from the Lions tour to New Zealand with issues that have still not been resolved nine months later.

Ringrose came home from Japan to a shoulder operation that took five months out of his season.

He was finding his rhythm when syndesmosis struck for the loss of another seven weeks.

In the meantime, Bundee Aki made his international debut against South Africa for five straight 80-minute performances.

Chris Farrell followed Aki with his debut, one week later, against Fiji and was last seen receiving the man-of-the-match against Wales.

Outstanding

Robbie Henshaw - he has been outstanding for province and country this season - has had his season ended by a shoulder dislocation.

And Farrell suffered the same fate just last week when his anterior cruciate ligament gave way.

Well - what do you know? - Ringrose made it back just in time to make a satisfactory return against Southern Kings in the PRO14 League.

The pressure is on for Ringrose and Aki to come together quickly as a new midfield partnership for Ireland.

They started the week with a session out in Abbotstown due to the snow-covered surface at their Carton House base.

Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson were scheduled to take a full part in training.

There was good and bad news for the hookers as Rob Herring rejoined the group and Niall Scannell will wait a week for his rib injury to settle.

Barry Daly was called up as Andrew Conway misses out with a knee problem.

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