Sunday 22 September 2019

O'Loughlin learning new leadership role

Rory O'Loughlin. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory O'Loughlin. Photo: Sportsfile

Ryan Corry

With the internationals in the squad departing for Chicago rather than South Africa this week, there's been a strange atmosphere in the Leinster camp.

Rory O'Loughlin is one of those heading south rather than west and he admits there is an element of disappointment that he hasn't been able to reach personal goals since getting that first cap against Japan in 2017.

"At the start of the year, that would have been one of my goals, to do something in the Irish squad. The last time I talked to Joe, he wanted to see me play in the big games in Europe," he says.

"So it was massively disappointing not to play in those two games. When I didn't play against Wasps, I was hoping to play against Toulouse at least and that might give me a bit of a chance. When I didn't feature in that game I had a feeling what was coming."

Being omitted from the squad is not new to O'Loughlin, having been left out of last year's November series and this year's Six Nations selections.

As well as competition for the coveted No 13 shirt within his own club, he also has to deal with competition from the likes of Bundee Aki and Will Addison as he looks to force his way back into Joe Schmidt's plans.

At Leinster, he has two established internationals in Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw to try and displace, a task easier said than done.

"Yeah, it's tough when the two lads are playing together so often and the teams they are playing on are winning - you don't want to change a winning formula.

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"All you can do is take your opportunity and train as well as you can, make it as competitive as possible in training.

"If there is a dip in form for one of the players, the coaches will start to see you have been consistent throughout the season."

Despite that, O'Loughlin is relishing the chance to get some game time in South Africa and having a different function within this changed Leinster squad.

As a more senior figure in the team than has been the case in the past, he will be able to work on leadership, which has never come naturally to him.

Challenge

"That is the challenge that has been put to me this year and it is what I'm still working on, to get more vocal, to get more clarity in our defence, no matter who's playing where.

"I don't think my personality is like that. That's been a challenge for me and it is something that Stu (Lancaster) identified early on with me in my first year with the team; forcing me to accept leadership roles.

"It's weird for me being one of the older lads in the squad, I'm usually one of the younger lads. So it's a different sort of role for me this week."

He expects a physical game from Southern Kings, a team he describes as being "direct" and "rapid" but maintains that they will still focus first and foremost on their own game.

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