Ireland optimistic over quick return for Garry Ringrose after injury blow

Ireland’s Garry Ringrose, left, will have to wait for his 50th cap (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)
Ireland’s Garry Ringrose, left, will have to wait for his 50th cap (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

Ireland are confident Garry Ringrose will only be sidelined for the short-term after a calf injury denied the centre the chance to win his 50th cap against Italy.

Ringrose was poised for a milestone appearance in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash in Rome before being forced to withdraw on the eve of the game due to tightness in a leg muscle.

The setback for the 28-year-old came a day after head coach Andy Farrell touted him as a future Ireland captain, saying: “He’s in top form right now and only going to get better.”

He will be replaced by Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey at Stadio Olimpico, while Ringrose’s Leinster team-mate Jimmy O’Brien has been added to the bench.

Assistant coach Mike Catt suggested the flight from Dublin had exacerbated an existing problem.

“Garry picked a bit of knock up on his calf last week,” he said following Ireland’s captain’s run in the Italian capital.

“We’ve sort of managed it through the week and, unfortunately, I think due to the travel and everything yesterday, he’s woken up a little bit tight.

“He’s obviously very, very disappointed because it was going to be his 50th cap.”

Catt allayed fears about Ringrose potentially being absent later in the championship.

Grand Slam-chasing Ireland face a trip to title rivals Scotland in round four on March 12 followed by an Aviva Stadium finale against England six days later.

Asked if it was a longer-term injury, Catt replied: “No, definitely not.

“It literally just tightened up this morning. He hasn’t pulled anything or done anything like that. It’s obviously very disappointing for him.

“But it does give Stuart McCloskey and Jimmy O’Brien an opportunity to play in a side that’s flying at the moment and gives them an opportunity to show what they’re about as well.”

Catt is back in Italy having served as the opposition’s attack coach between 2016 and 2019.

The Azzurri look to be on the rise after ending a 36-match losing run in the Six Nations by defeating Wales last year before registering a historic success over Australia in the autumn and impressing in defeat by France at the start of the current tournament.

World Cup winner Catt has been impressed by the progress of the resurgent hosts, built on an exciting brand of rugby fostered by New Zealander coach Kieran Crowley.

“With all the criticism that has come Italy’s way over the past 10, 12, 15 years, it’s brilliant to see them beating Wales,” said the former England back.

“It’s huge for them, it’s huge for the country, it’s huge for the sport in Italy as well.

“It’s great for the coaches. They’re putting so much work and effort in, and the clubs.

“It has been tough in the past, we understood it, a lot of politics, but that seems to be moving aside and it’s about the rugby.

“They’re picking the right players to play that way so it’s fantastic. Kieran has done a great job.”

Ireland have won 22 of the previous 23 Six Nations matches between the sides, with a 22-15 loss a decade ago the only blemish on that record.

Catt added: “The weather is fantastic, the pitch is in amazing nick and the crowd is passionate, so from our point of view it’s a great setting to put on a spectacle.”