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Ronan Kelleher targets more games and a Six Nations title after making debut against Scotland

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Ireland debutants Rónan Kelleher, left, and Caelan Doris

Ireland debutants Rónan Kelleher, left, and Caelan Doris

SPORTSFILE

Ireland debutants Rónan Kelleher, left, and Caelan Doris

Ireland debutant Ronan Kelleher is targeting more game-time in the green jersey after he came off the bench in Saturday's victory over Scotland.

And the hooker doesn't want to stop there as he insisted that his side are now looking to go and win the Six Nations after getting their campaign off to a winning start.

Ireland will need major improvements if they are to do so, particularly with Wales coming to Dublin next weekend.

Kelleher hadn't played since fracturing his hand for Leinster on December 7, but he showed no ill-effects of the injury when he came off the bench for the closing stages at the Aviva Stadium.

"Absolutely, I'd like more game-time but the overriding ambition is to win the whole thing," Kelleher said.

"That is the main thing about the whole squad, just go out there and win it."

Kelleher's hand was in a protective glove, but it didn't hinder him as he put himself about for the limited time he was on the pitch.

The 22-year old admitted that he wasn't expecting to be included in the Ireland squad having missed two months due to the injury, but now that he has gotten a taste for international rugby, he wants more.

"I was wearing that glove to give it extra protection but it felt really good," he explained.

"There were no ill-effects. To be honest, when I had the hand injury, I was just focusing on getting back to play for Leinster.

"It was a massive bonus to be included in that stock-take in December and to be in the squad for my first Six Nations, I was delighted. Hopefully I can get a great run of form now.

"When I got on, the lads helped me get into things. Those last five minutes were really important moments in the context of the game. We did brilliantly in that situation, ensuring we didn't give away any soft tries.

"It was very tough; but those ten minutes, I was buzzing off adrenaline more than anything else. That kind of got me through it. It was attritional, tough, pretty quick but I thought we did really well to dig in. I feel like I'm in a good space.

"My hand has recovered well and I'm looking forward to getting back into getting a good run of form. It has been a real learning experience, picking the brains of Pete (O'Mahony), Rob (Herring)."

Kelleher spoke about how Johnny Sexton rallied the troops in the dressing afterwards, while he also praised the welcoming nature of the squad.

"It's incredible," he continued.

"Johnny talked about how important it was to get that opening win, how momentum plays such a big part in the Six Nations.

"Everyone in the squad was really welcoming, inclusive. It was extra special to get my first cap with Caelan (Doris).

"It was unfortunate what happened to him, but I am still delighted we got our debuts together. All the family members were there with me afterwards, in the changing room, it was a special time.

"Caelan was in good spirits in the dressing room afterwards. Obviously it was worrying at the time. But he came through it. We were chatting to him. His family came in as well. It was great for the two of us."

Kelleher faces competition for the number two jersey from Ulster's Rob Herring, who played well this evening, and Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan, who was at the Aviva as an extra squad player.

The Leinster youngster is however, seen as Ireland's next long-term hooker and this experience will certainly stand to him.

"Competition for a place in this squad is huge," Kelleher added.

"You've the three of us, Sean (Cronin) back in Leinster, Niall Scannell in Munster, Del (Shane Delahunt) in Connacht.

"There is huge depth in that position. It's about being on form when you get the opportunity."

Online Editors