Sunday 19 November 2017

O'Donoghue: I'm ready to step up as leader

Jack O’Donoghue of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

His pathway has been one of progress through the Munster ranks over the years but Jack O'Donoghue knows the next couple of weeks give him a great chance to take a big step forward.

Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander will return from Lions duty in the next few weeks, cranking up the pressure on the likes of O'Donoghue for inclusion in a back-row already laden with Irish internationals.

But the 23-year-old from Waterford is continuing to make progress. This season was the first that he returned a bit later than most others because he had been included in an Irish summer touring party for the first time.

He has chalked up 65 appearances since his debut this month three years ago off the bench against Zebre. Rassie Erasmus has plenty of options in the back-row, but that's nothing new for O'Donoghue.

"That's the challenge, isn't it? Since I came in there has never been a lapse, has there?" he says.

"That creates a good environment and good competition. When people get complacent is when teams' performances might start slacking and it's something in Munster that we have always driven, the standards off the pitch and on the pitch and good competition between players. You have your friendships off the pitch but it's very competitive on the pitch.

"You go for coffee afterwards and there's a lot of coaching between players and it's something that is going to have to step up this year with the change in coaching staff, it's going to have to be very much player-driven for the season.

"And I think that's where a lot of the older lads who have been away with the Lions and Ireland are going to have to step up. Even for a younger lad, and I class myself as one of the younger lads, it's a chance for me to step up as a leader."

Capped at underage level, O'Donoghue made his senior international debut against Canada last November and picked up his second cap in Japan in June. He was the 2015 academy player of the year in Munster, a season where he also captained the 'A' side there, and an initial three-year contract was extended in March.

But the key thing now is to force himself into that congested back-row. "I have played in some big games but there is the challenge that you want to be starting for the European Cup games, starting for the inter-pro games and that's something you'd be thinking about leading into this block of games."

Irish Independent

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