O'Kelly eager to see Douglas grow and fulfil potential
Before Kane Douglas had even touched down in Dublin, Malcolm O'Kelly predicted that it would take the Australian international second-row time to settle in his new surroundings.
With 92 international caps of his own, O'Kelly knows a thing or two about life in Leinster and indeed what it takes to appease the supporters.
It wasn't the easiest of starts for Douglas but there have been signs in his performances in recent weeks of the player that Leinster eagerly brought to the province from the New South Wales Waratahs.
The 25-year-old has made eight appearances since arriving in October and O'Kelly believes that Douglas is a major talent who will continue to improve.
"I think he's starting to go very well now. You have to be patient with a guy like that," he admitted.
"At the end of the day, he may come with a bit of a name but he's only 25. Second-rows are still learning the game at that age.
"No matter where you're from, Australia or New Zealand, whatever, you've only got a couple of seasons under your belt of playing top rugby. He's only had a couple of seasons playing Super Rugby, which is very different to the kind of rugby that you play over here.
"It's a physical game over here - a different type of physicality. It's more a slog and it's tough for front-fivers here. It really drains you.
"But it makes you a great second-row and I think he's got all the raw materials. For a guy like that, he'll offer more and more as the seasons go by," O'Kelly added.
With Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy away on international duty for the next six weeks, Douglas has a chance to cement his place in the starting XV for the remainder of the season.
With a Champions Cup home quarter-final with Bath on the horizon, O'Kelly is adamant that Leinster will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Toulon in the last four - should they see off the challenge of what is an improving Bath side.
Leinster were beaten 29-14 at the hands of the French powerhouse at the quarter-final stage last year but O'Kelly believes lessons will have been learned.
"We saw what Munster were able to do when they exerted a serious amount of pressure on them. If you can get over Bath, you've just a huge carrot there of probably playing Toulon.
"They're a team who are almost perceived to be invincible at this stage but they lose matches in the French league every second week when they go away from home.
"They have a massive tradition at home but at the end of the day you want to be playing against these type of teams. There's almost a nothing-to-lose aspect with it.
"There's an expectation on the Bath game which is difficult because players will have to come back after the Six Nations and get back up to speed with the Leinster mindset.
"It's a difficult task. It took Leinster years to master it and this is a new squad so it's going to a major challenge that's for sure."
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