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Ireland v France: If I become even half the player Jared Payne is then I'll be over the moon: Ringrose

By Jonathan Bradley

A product of Blackrock College, a precocious talent at a young age, and occupying the Irish 13 jersey, the comparisons between Garry Ringrose and Brian O'Driscoll have long been mooted.

Last time out, even though the Italians offered little resistance in terms of tackling, the footwork displayed by the 22-year-old on his way to a second international score did nothing to dampen the hype.

And while O'Driscoll himself is known to be a fan, the most iconic Irish player of recent vintage is not the man Ringrose is out to emulate against France tomorrow (4.50pm kick-off).

Instead, it's his immediate predecessor in the outside centre berth, Ulster's Jared Payne.

The naturalised Kiwi had filled the 13 jersey from the moment he qualified on residency in the autumn of 2014, but suffered kidney damage against Australia in November.

And while he has returned to Ulster training, the 31-year-old is being carefully managed back to action.

His merits on the Test stage were debated in some corners, but he has been viewed as a vital cog in Joe Schmidt's system and Ringrose certainly understands the importance of the man he has replaced.

"Jared is incredible defensively, and I've learned as much as I could off him, training with him and watching him on TV," Ringrose said ahead of the crunch meeting with Les Blues.

"To describe Jared as the defensive captain is very true.

"I don't think there's a specific defensive captain now, I think collectively we all have to buy in and not one person is defending on their own.

"We're better collectively, so I don't think there's a captain I could single out.

"If I could be half the player Jared is I'd be over the moon.

"With him being injured I've just had to try to best fill his shoes with the opportunity I've been given."

Having already lost to Scotland, there is no margin for error if Ireland are going to maintain their championship ambitions into March, but Ringrose is unlikely to be overwhelmed by the situation.

Ever since making his debut against Canada in November, it seems as if he has been right at home with each passing challenge.

"Every game I play is getting bigger and bigger and there's more on the line," he said.

"At 13, you're definitely shown a different picture every game.

"I'll always come away - no matter if I was playing for Leinster or Ireland - having learned something new.

"It's about trying to adapt as well as possible. Even training against each other, there's always something new.

"Thankfully I've Robbie (Henshaw) inside me who's incredibly smart and physical defensively.

"I can follow his lead sometimes and he covers me a bit if I get it wrong. I have that bit of security there and I do the best I can to implement what I've learned."

Winning just his sixth cap in the Aviva tomorrow, it will be Ringrose's first taste of playing in a Dublin atmosphere on a Six Nations day.

Having watched many a game from the terraces, and won three caps at headquarters during the autumn internationals, it will not be a wholly different experience, but he is looking forward to getting back in front of a home crowd after opening the championship with two away games, even if the green jerseys were plentiful in both Edinburgh and Rome.

"Without stating the obvious, it's just having to travel," he said.

"You don't quite have the home crowd behind you when the going gets tough.

"Having said that, I couldn't get over how many Irish people were in the stands for both games.

"There's that element which is tough but you learn to knit closer as a group and you follow the leaders when things go wrong.

"Thankfully, we'll have the best of both worlds in the Aviva.

"Against Scotland we conceded two tries out wide, which is never nice for the 13s or wingers, so it's learning to set a bit wider and then come off the line a bit squarer.

"I didn't expect to play as much as I did during the autumn series. One or two injuries in the build-up and I managed to find myself in for the Six Nations. It's pretty cool."

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