O'Loughlin aims to further centre education
No one at Leinster was jumping up and down at the news that Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose were ruled out for the start of the season, but this is a ruthless business and, for the up-and-comers hoping to make the grade in the absence of the Ireland pair, it's the kind of opening that doesn't come along too often.
Suddenly, the province's midfield was a blank canvas that needed to be filled. Tom Daly and Noel Reid have the bad luck to be injured at the same time, meaning the cupboard is even bearer; which affords Rory O'Loughlin an opportunity to shine.
A year ago, he was hoping for some senior game-time but he surpassed his own expectations by finishing 2016/'17 an Ireland international with more than 20 Leinster caps under his belt.
Most of those came on the wing, but now he gets a chance to put the feedback he received from Joe Schmidt and the international coaches into practice, while also demonstrating his capacity to thrive in the centre.
"It is a good chance for me to try and cement a place and push on and compete at the centre position," he admitted. "It's not a case of just filling in there at the moment. The lads will come back and it's going to be about competing against myself more so than competing against other people, that's how players become the best they can be, trying to continuously improve.
"It's what I've been looking to do even when the lads are fit, there's no point in trying to just compete with one person, you're always looking to improve yourself and that's what I've always been told coming up."
While most of the rugby world were focusing on events in New Zealand last June, O'Loughlin was making his senior debut in the 50-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka.
That 20-minute cameo and the entire tour experience has given the 23-year-old a taste of the top level and he's determined to play his way into Ireland contention in the not too distant future.
"It was good. The first few days of camp is a bit of a reality check, there's a lot thrown at you and you're expected to know it straight away," he explained.
"The first day or two, it's all about learning the plays, watching the videos and that, but there was a good few of us in the same boat, there was eight uncapped players.
"All the lads, the coaches were very helpful. There's resources everywhere in camp so you just have to go looking and ask, nothing is really given to you, you're expected to show up to training having known the plays and having corrected what you did wrong the day before.
"I really enjoyed it, to get my first cap was great, it's been a goal of mine since I was eight or nine, and being introduced to the system gave me an indication of how I need to improve and what areas I need to be better at to be in there on a more permanent basis.
"I got great feedback off the coaches on what I need to do this season, what to improve on, so overall it was a great experience."