Veteran O'Callaghan determined to make his case for starting berth
Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan is treating this season as if it’s his first in a bid to earn a regular starting spot for his province and work his way into Joe Schmidt’s World Cup plans.
O’Callaghan (35) is entering his 16th season with Munster, but says he is determined to show everyone that he is still capable of being a regular starter and says he is a fresh as ever.
The Cork native earned the last of his 94 Irish caps back in the 2013 Six Nations and has yet to play for new coach Schmidt, but with the mindset of a rookie chasing his debut, O’Callaghan says he’s determined to get back into contention.
“It’s tough not getting as much game time as you’d like and the competition is fierce, so I’m not getting as many starts.
“But yeah, I’m still as hungry for it, I would view it as cap one. That’s all I want, to play for Ireland. But I know playing for Ireland is as a result of going well with Munster and if we’re successful here it falls out the back.
“It’ll be tough, but it’s World Cup year. I know myself, I wouldn’t lie to myself, you have to be playing to a certain high standard to be in the shake-up and I haven’t probably been at that for the last year. But I’m delighted to be training and being in that challenging environment,” said O’Callaghan, who is Ireland’s most capped forward and Munster’s all-time record caps holder.
With Munster’s pre-season slog coming to an end on Saturday when they face Gloucester at Kingsholm, O’Callaghan says he is bursting to return to the team game of the season rather than the personal slog of the last few weeks.
And after falling at the semi-finals of both the Guinness Pro12 and the Heineken Cup last year despite impressing earlier in the season, the powerful lock is determined to see some reward at the end of this campaign following last season’s frustrations.
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“It was massively tough. Within 13 days...you’re in the hunt for two competitions and then it’s all over. You’re booking your holidays.
“But that’s the fuel that drives you on.
“You don’t want that feeling, you carry it through for the rest of the year. The hunger is there and the want to push on.
“Success? Absolutely, Europe or Rabo. That’s minimum requirement if you ask a Munster supporter now. They aren’t going to say that it would be great to finish top four.
“They’re used to us winning and there’s been that standard set. You don’t get much of a chance of it and you need to ruthless when you can to pick up what you can.”