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Ringrose pick to lead Blues

Cullen puts his faith in centre to be the captain

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QUALITY: Garry Ringrose will captain Leinster for the first time

QUALITY: Garry Ringrose will captain Leinster for the first time

SPORTSFILE

QUALITY: Garry Ringrose will captain Leinster for the first time

Early on Monday morning, Leo Cullen pulled Garry Ringrose aside for a chat.

The coach was planning to rest captain Johnny Sexton for tonight's PRO14 final, while vice-captain Rhys Ruddock is not getting his game right now, so he needed someone to step into the breach.

A three-time Heineken Cup-winning captain for the Blues during his distinguished playing career, Cullen surveyed his options and settled on his fellow Blackrock College alumnus as the man to lead the team on to the Aviva Stadium pitch.

An established starter and a growing presence as a leadership figure for club or country, tonight will be the 25-year-old centre's first outing as captain. And while he will not let it distract from his main role in the team, he was delighted to get the nod.

"It's probably the biggest honour of my rugby career - probably since I started playing rugby if I'm being honest. So it's an incredibly special moment," he said. "When I found out it was a pretty cool moment but I had to flick the switch and realise that's irrelevant come Saturday, that what's important is ultimately how we perform as a team.

"The preparation doesn't change in terms of my individual prep' as the week goes, but there's one or two extra conversations to be had.

"Thankfully there's plenty of leaders on the pitch, the likes of James Ryan, Caelan Doris have captained before and then there's Jamison (Gibson-Park) and Ross (Byrne), who is obviously a massive leader for us.

"We've had a few conversations about what we'll do and decide out there, and then an element of how does it feel.

"It might just be one or two extra responsibilities but nothing changes from what we expect from each individual, including myself."

Cullen, meanwhile, had no hesitation in handing Ringrose the responsibility.

"Garry has been excellent for us since he came back from the World Cup.

"He's grown in that leadership space all the time," the Leinster head coach added.