Tuesday 22 October 2019

Doris day in the spotlight gives him chance to shine in absence of Irish stars

Caelan Doris of Leinster in action against Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Caelan Doris of Leinster in action against Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

LEINSTER'S latest back-row off the well-oiled production line, Caelan Doris, is eager to play down the hype despite being name-checked in certain quarters as a World Cup bolter for Japan later this year.

And the Mayo number eight has even revealed that his family have been getting in touch to remind him of the swirling publicity surrounding the man who has already captained his side at an under-age World Cup.

"I'm not overly aware," he admits of the attention. "I get the odd text, my dad might let me know now and again.

"But my focus is on playing here as much as I can, being in the match day 23s as frequently as possible and for the bigger games as well, hopefully.

"Obviously this period is great for some of the younger guys, senior academy players, when the internationals are away, to get that week on week run of games.

"My focus is performing well, getting opportunities here and hopefully they'll come in the bigger games down the line."

Sean O'Brien's days as a number eight may be numbered, as well as his career in blue, but his departure, added to the retirement of Jamie Heaslip and the transfer of Jordi Murphy north could open a door for the bustling ball-carrier.

"There are plenty of international backs rowers and others coming through I'm sure," Doris says, cognisant that another under-age star, Max Deegan, is also vying hard to nail down a potential Champions Cup berth should senior stars such as Jack Conan falter through injury.

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"Although he is a special player, other guys will step up and fill that space. For me, there is two ways of looking at it.

"It frees up a position in the back row, potentially. But, there's also lots of learnings that can be taken from him.

"Obviously, I would love to be involved in the bigger games. I'm trying to take it game-by-game, trying to perform when I get the opportunity. I'm not looking too far ahead."

The Southern Kings form the middle leg of a three-week run of league games that will showcase his talent, and his developing skills in the lineout.

"Underage and through school I wasn't involved with lineouts much, we'd often have five mans and I'd be out carrying, but since I've come in here, the academy last year and this season, it's been a big work on, I've put quite a lot of time into that and hopefully it's starting to pay off now."

His hefty schedule in the Academy and at international level resulted in him losing some time with injuries but he is now feeling fit and ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

"I played in a couple of pre-season games, the Newcastle game which was also pretty physical, even the league compared to the pre-season, was a big step up, bigger guys, less space, more organised defences. I always look to run into the space not the man, but there is less of that.

"Obviously the players are better defenders, they make better decisions, so often you're running into two runners as well, so that was probably a bit of a challenge at first, but I'm getting a little more used to it as the season progressed.

"Compared to the 20s, you've one guy hanging off instead of being hit by two, that's probably the main difference I've noticed.

"I had a hamstring injury last year. I was out for about 15 weeks with that, not exactly a break, but it was a break from training, playing every day before I then got back a month or two before the World Cup.

"I played a couple of games pre-World Cup, and then the five in the World Cup, then got five weeks off after that, so I had pretty decent break."

Leinster have concentrated on developing his all-round game and although he admits to improvements, he is also keen not to abandon his primary, eye-catching ability on the ball.

"The lineout is the main one," he says of his improvements. "The others would be smaller, more detail things that I've tightened up.

"I would have been a bit raw coming in as an Academy player last year.

"It mightn't be that noticeable to the untrained eye, just things like getting my spacing right in defence, especially in the wider channels, getting line speed there, decision-making at the breakdown, whether I'm going to hit it our stay out in defence, more than any one big thing."

"But you don't want to become a robot. I want to keep my strengths in the carrying and getting my hands free. I will definitely keep practising that."

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