Sunday 19 November 2017

After a disappointing spell with Leinster, Kane Douglas gets a chance to silence some of the Irish doubters

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Such was the haste that Kane Douglas departed Ireland, he didn’t even get a chance to bring his dog Fred back to Australia with him.

When Leinster confirmed that Douglas would join the province back in 2014, it was seen as a significant coup. In his statement, the then 24-year old rattled off mundane phrases such as “big decision”, “excited”, “the time is right” and “new challenge”.

However, Douglas never settled in Dublin and despite the fact that Leinster had quite clearly invested a lot to lure him from Australia, supporters never saw the best of him.

After barely a year, Douglas packed his bags and headed for home. At the time, he cited personal reasons as the main factor for wanting to leave Ireland but there was also the carrot of a place in Michael Cheika’s World Cup squad dangling before him.

After signing a three-year deal, it was a hugely disappointing end for both parties. A back injury blighted his short stint with Leinster but even in the 20 appearances he did make, there were few signs of his quality.

Douglas is back amongst his own now. His wife, who he proposed to during their time in Dublin, is a guest in Mike McCarthy’s house this week.

“I have some great memories here,” Douglas insists.

“I proposed to my girlfriend at the time, she’s now my wife. We became pregnant here, a little baby was made here. I’ve made some great friendships.

“My partner is staying at Mike McCarthy’s house with him and his wife. I’m really glad I did come over here but just for family reasons and other things, I wanted to move back home.”

Now 27, there is a more mature demeanour about Douglas. On Saturday, he will get a chance to prove some of the doubters wrong when he goes up against a familiar face in Devin Toner. For a time, it seemed as though the pair would be the driving force in Leinster’s engine room.

“I don’t think he could grow too much taller, he’s already hitting the ceilings,” Douglas quips. “He’s been going great. I’ve sort of been watching some of the Leinster games from afar, and some of the Ireland games.”

There will always be a sense of regret about how Douglas’s time with Leinster went but everything has seemingly worked out fine for both parties.

Douglas started in the Wallabies’ World Cup final defeat to New Zealand last October and has settled back in Queensland with the Reds where he had linked up with Matt O’Connor.

Meanwhile back in Leinster, there is a plethora of quality second-rows on the club’s books, including McCarthy who acknowledged that it was disappointing how his old friend’s move worked out.

“I’m sure he was frustrated himself in terms of being out with that injury,” McCarthy says. “I remember watching him play for Australia in the World Cup and I thought he was a class act. I think he’s a great player – a big man, very big man and a physical guy.”

Douglas was forced off after just 15 minutes of the World Cup final with a horrific knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. He had to wait eight months before eventually making his Reds’ debut in their Super Rugby defeat to the Brumbies in July.

It’s been another hugely testing time but after a disappointing Rugby Championship, he was back in the starting XV in Paris last weekend. Cheika has evidently always been a fan of the lock but one of his predecessors, Bob Dwyer, insisted that Douglas needed to buck up.

“I think Kane Douglas really needs to return to the impressive form that he showed in the World Cup, but very good players don’t become a lesser player overnight,” Dwyer said in the build-up to the narrow win over France.

Southern Hemisphere players don’t often rock up to this part of the world immediately after they have won a Super Rugby title so naturally when they do, there is excitement.

When Douglas played an integral role in the Waratahs’ first title in 2014, Leinster hoped they had signed a gem. And maybe they did, but it remains a pity that he wasn’t around long enough to prove that he was.

“I probably packed a few more scrums than I would in Australia,” Douglas explains.

“It’s just the different type of rugby, a different style – more grinding, disciplined, although I still probably give away too many penalties.

“Leinster was very disciplined and very hard on that because you can’t afford to give away penalties and teams kick goals over here because you don’t get as many opportunities to score tries. There’s a heap of little things. I think I’ve gained from that experience.”

Leinster can take credit for the fact that Douglas returns to Dublin a better player than the one who first arrived two years ago.

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