Tuesday 17 September 2019

U-20 star Doris: I was always Mayo for football but Leinster for rugby

Caelan Doris. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Caelan Doris. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Of the six fresh faces in the Ireland U-20s squad for the upcoming World Cup campaign, which begins against the hosts France next Wednesday, Caelan Doris's inclusion is a particularly significant boost.

Doris played a year young in 2017, and was one of the stand-out performers, but his progress this season was hampered when he tore his hamstring in a warm-up game ahead of the U-20 Six Nations.

It was a major blow for a youngster who had been making waves in Leinster, but he has bounced back well.

Doris played for St Mary's in the AIL before making his Leinster debut against Connacht last month.

At 20, the former Blackrock College student has a bright future ahead of him and his return also softens the potential blow of losing Munster's Jack O'Sullivan, who is struggling with an injury.

"Caelan was arguably the best No 8 in the Six Nations last year," head coach Noel McNamara said.

"He's obviously a guy who has played senior rugby for Leinster and is very highly regarded.

"There is no doubt that he is a big boost for us coming back into the squad.

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"I was unfortunately on the receiving end (as Clongowes coach) in a Senior Cup final in 2014, where Caelan was a 15-year-old and even back then you could see he had a presence; even in the contact in particular, the tackle, he finds another foot on the floor.

"In the ball carrying he gets you on the front foot. He's got a lot of qualities as a player; he's got a lot of qualities as a person."

Doris takes over the captaincy duties from Tommy O'Brien. Both players will be crucial to Ireland's hopes of advancing from a tough pool that includes South Africa and Georgia as well as France.

"Obviously when you are out (injured), it's frustrating at the time, seeing everyone else doing well, but there were a lot of things I was able to work on," Doris maintained.

"I feel like I'm coming back a better player.

"I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into the World Cup."

A Mayo native, Doris went to school in Blackrock. Despite growing up in Connacht, there were no split loyalties, as he explained:

"I was a boarder in Blackrock since first year, my dad was in Blackrock as well. Both my parents are from Dublin so I was never really a Connacht supporter.

"I used to stay in my granny's quite a bit in Donnybrook and hear the crowd there, the Leinster matches going on, so I was always kind of Mayo for football, and Leinster for rugby."

Last week, Doris was rewarded with a Leinster senior contract ahead of next season and the fact that he made his debut is indicative of how highly he is rated by Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster.

"It (debut) was class," he added.

"Leo actually said to me before the game that he made his debut in the Sportsground when he was 20, 20 years ago - the year I was born - so that was kind of cool.

"I played on that pitch with the Ballina minis. It was cool to be back in front of a full crowd.

"It was something I was definitely working towards and wanted. I knew it was going to be extremely tough, especially at the start of the season with the amount of back-rows but there was a few injuries so I did get the opportunity.

"Definitely my goal was to play with Leinster 'A' quite a bit and I got that so, even with the injury, I still played about 12-15 games - so it was still a decent season."

Meanwhile, in a change-up to the coaching structure, Tom Tierney has been relieved of his duties as defence coach and will instead focus on his role as an elite player development officer with the IRFU.

Ireland U-20s World Cup squad - Forwards: M Agnew, J Aungier, D Barron , J Byrne*, M Dalton , C Daly, C Doris (capt), J Duggan, J Dunne, J Dunleavy, J French, A Hall, T O'Toole, J O'Sullivan, C Ryan, D Sheehan*. Backs: H Byrne, C Dean, D Hurley*, J Hume, S O'Brien, H O'Sullivan, T Roche*, M Silvester, J Stewart, P Sylvester*, T O'Brien, J McCarthy.

*Denotes uncapped at this level.

Independent.ie's World Rugby U-20s Championship coverage is in association with PwC

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