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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018

Munster back row O'Donoghue keen to 'kick on' with Ireland on summer tour

The 23-year-old understands that he must prove himself to Joe Schmidt at provincial level again.

MUNSTER BACK ROW Jack O’Donoghue thinks that young flanker Dan Leavy’s elevation to the Ireland bench against England for the final Six Nations last weekend is a sign that he’s not too far from the reckoning either.

23-year-old O’Donoghue was unfortunate to pick up a knee injury against the Scarlets recently that ruled him out of Munster’s most recent Pro12 game against Cardiff.

Jack O’Donoghue after the game O'Donoghue has 55 games for Munster under his belt. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

But the dynamic number eight thinks players like Leavy being relied upon by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is a good sign for the future.

Ireland are scheduled to tour America and Japan in June and O’Donoghue is eyeing that as his chance to break into the Ireland squad on a regular basis.

“Dan got his first cap at the same time as myself against Canada. He has been playing very well for Leinster leading up to the Six Nations,” said O’Donoghue, who has already made 55 Munster appearances since his debut three seasons ago.

“Joe sees that and that gives you the confidence that if you were to perform for your club, he will give you the opportunities.

“It is a massive summer for the younger lads to have a chance to tour with Ireland due to a Lions tour. I suppose there about 10 or 11 of us who are looking at this summer’s tour as a potential to kick on and it can only benefit us going forward.

“You see the lads get that unbelievable result at the weekend and you think, ‘What can I do to be there next year?’ It gives you the drive and the motivation to be there next year and with a summer tour coming up too, I’m going to try and do my utmost to make that tour.”

But if the Waterford native is to add to his one international cap in the coming months he first needs to cement his spot in the starting Munster back-row. And that’s a difficult prospect now that Rassie Erasmus has a fully-fit crop of back rows to choose from.

Jack O'Donoghue scores his sides first try O'Donoghue scores a try against the Ospreys last month. Source: Camerasport/Simon King/INPHO

CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony both played key roles in the Six Nations; Tommy O’Donnell was also in and out of the Ireland squad; while an in-form Conor Oliver, Dave O’Callaghan and fit-again Robin Copeland mean it will be a real battle for game time.

“This game against Zebre could be make or break for me because I missed out on two games where other lads had a chance to shine,” said O’Donoghue, ahead of Munster’s Guinness Pro12 clash with the Italian side on Saturday [KO 2pm Irish time].

“The minutes I get this weekend will be vital for me. I don’t want to think about it like that. I cannot afford to get caught up in the what could happen, otherwise the game will pass me by and you have done nothing to put yourself forward.

“I am trying to focus on the game itself and what I can do in that. I have to try and place the best I can and do the little things like catch, pass, carry and tackle and the performance will come from there.

“It comes back to Munster too, of course. If you are not playing for Munster, how can you be considered to play for Ireland? That is my focus now.

“I have been out for a few weeks and I haven’t really been on the pitch. So I am looking forward to this weekend, if selected, to get a few minutes under the belt ahead of the Toulouse game.”

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Declan Rooney

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