Bortolami battle at the forefront of Molony's thoughts
Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30
Ross Molony was just seven years old when Marco Bortolami made his Italy debut in 2001 and when the pair clash at the RDS this evening, it will very much be a case of master versus apprentice.
Bortolami has since won 110 more international caps and although his wealth of experience is something that Molony admires, it's not something that he fears.
The 21-year old academy second-row saw his rapidly growing reputation enhanced during the World Cup period and with a similar number of players away with Ireland during the Six Nations - in particular, Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy - the coming weeks are again crucial for him.
Going up against the likes of Bortolami is another step in his learning and without Leinster's first-choice second-row pairing, an extra emphasis falls on Molony's young shoulders.
"I wouldn't see it as pressure, just as an opportunity," he maintained.
"It's quite exciting when you know the two lads will be away for the week. It's then just about getting my own stuff right and giving myself the best opportunity for selection.
"It's great in this club with so many experienced second-rows so it is kind of just me picking up things from everyone and building on my style of play, and again I'm very lucky to have such experience around here at the club.
"I have been happy to get opportunities and to run out for Leinster and just to keep working when the opportunities come and just keep looking into the next block in the Six Nations. It is a huge target for us.
"Looking into the season, personally I targeted the two (international windows), first the World Cup block and then the Six Nations as time to get opportunities, just making sure I was on top of my game and could get a run-out," Molony added.
A product of St Michael's College's conveyor belt of talent, shouldering responsibility is something that Molony has grown accustomed to in his fledging career but he knows the importance of testing himself the likes of Bortolami.
"I would have been aware of him from playing for Italy so much," Molony said.
"It's quite exciting to be looking at him as the opposition now as opposed to just watching him on TV in the Six Nations.
"He's obviously a great leader, the captain of Zebre and over 100 international caps. Very very reliable. They'll be looking to take us on physically in the maul, so it's just about us being prepared for that and getting started in the game as best as we can.
"It's good to see the amount of young lads in (Ireland) camp at the moment, I've been playing with Garry (Ringrose) for a few years and it is good to see his progress and how close we are at a young age so I take huge confidence from it.
"I just need to keep working on my own stuff and hopefully the opportunities come."
Plenty of opportunities are sure to come Molony's way in the coming weeks as he looks to stake his claim for later on in the season.