Rory Best has called for an end to 'fantasy' comparisons between Brian O'Driscoll and Garry Ringrose to let Ireland's young gun centre realise his rich Test potential.
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt spent some 18 months rejecting growing outside clamour to cap Ringrose before handing the gifted midfielder his Test bow in November.
Captain Best believes that extra breathing space before being thrust into the international cauldron could prove the making of the hugely-gifted Ringrose.
The 22-year-old’s elusive running elicits obvious comparisons with Ireland great O’Driscoll, but as one Leinster centre sets off on the same path as another Best insists Ringrose must be allowed to become his own man.
“People just want this fantasy that there’s another Brian O’Driscoll out there: there isn’t another Brian O’Driscoll,” Best said.
“There’s another great, young guy, who happens to be from Dublin who happens to play 13 - but he’s not going to be exactly the same.
“There are some things Garry doesn’t do as well as Drico, but there are other things he could potentially do better than Drico. He has to be his own player.
“I think people often want to draw similarities: people saw Drico thrown in as a 20-year-old so they say, ‘Let’s do that with Garry’.
“But the game’s very different now as well. You’ve got to give this guy a chance as Joe (Schmidt) has done, and now he’s reaping the benefits of it.
“Joe brought him into training and let him get his bearings and learn a little bit behind the scenes, and that’s definitely paid off.”
Ireland’s record caps-holder O’Driscoll had barely retired when Ringrose started to break into Leinster’s first team in 2015.
Comparisons with the 133-cap centre followed immediately, but Ireland boss Schmidt resisted any temptation to pitch Ringrose into the Test team until last November.
While Ringrose remained an unused replacement in the historic win over New Zealand in Chicago, he debuted against Canada and then claimed a pivotal try in the 27-24 victory over Australia.
Ringrose endured a difficult day as Ireland opened their RBS 6 Nations campaign with a 27-22 loss to Scotland, the four-cap midfielder caught out for Stuart Hogg’s first try.
The Leinster star offered a much-improved second-half showing in line with Ireland overall however, to raise hopes of a return to top form for Saturday’s clash with Italy in Rome.
The Ireland Under-20s graduate could have the chance to run the course of the Six Nations in the centres, with Ulster’s Jared Payne likely to miss the entire tournament with kidney trouble.
And Best believes he has the commitment and attention to detail to continue to thrive at Test level.
“You see with Garry and Josh Van der Flier, they are two great examples of young guys who put in a huge amount of work,” said Best.
“They put in a lot of time and have quickly gained trust by the way they prepare to train, then the way they train - and after that the way that they have both played.”