LEO CULLEN REACHES for two words whenever he is invited to speak about the rise of a bright young talent in his squad: ‘hard’ and ‘work’.
However, the latest academy product to light the blue touchpaper has been making the whole process look easy of late.
Rory O’Loughlin was the undoubted star of Leinster’s inter-pro win over Ulster on Saturday, scoring two tries in what ought to be have been a bonus point victory.
However, it’s not just O’Loughlin’s name on the score-sheet that makes him stand out, it’s the manner in which he finishes. Many players touch the ball down and use the moment as a chance to release tension with an angry roar and a clenched fist. O’Loughlin, on each of his four scores since making his debut for his province this season, has been grinning from ear to ear.
“He’s great. He’s a pleasure to train and work with,” says backs coach Girvan Dempsey.
He’s working really hard and that’s what we’re trying to get all the guys to do; express themselves and enjoy their rugby so they can show what they can do.
“He’s certainly done that, taken the jersey and he’s reluctant to let go of it.”
A centre by trade, O’Loughlin has been making his name on Leinster’s wing of late. His debut and run of 11 appearances so far this campaign are thanks to some excellent summer form that forced him into Cullen’s thoughts.
“He’s carried on his momentum,” the head coach said after the New Year’s Eve win, “trained really well in pre-season, performed well in the pre-season games.
“Like, the window’s there for all players. We used a lot of players in pre-season, the window’s there for guys and he’s someone who has taken his chance. He’s gone from strength to strength and I’m delighted to see him score twice.
“The try he scored in the first half is an outstanding individual effort. He’s working hard and it’s great to see.”
The try Cullen mentions is a strong contender for Leinster’s try of the season. O’Loughlin burst onto Ross Byrne’s pop pass and scorched through the Ulster defensive line. Once through the gap, his brain and feet kept working.
“Once I went through the initial gap, I tried to make a decision as early as possible and just go 100%,” O’Loughlin told RTE post-match.
“There have been times earlier in the year when I’ve made an initial break and been a bit hesitant and got stuck in two minds and that’s when you get caught.
“I’d been advised by the coaches to just back myself and go for it, which is what I did there and, thankfully, it worked out.”
Though he wasn’t part of the Leinster contingent who were away for an Ireland camp today, O’Loughlin’s versatility in the back-line will surely ensure Joe Schmidt keeps his number handy, not to mention the hunger for work and improvement which Dempsey described:
“He’s good because he’s got that flexibility. He can play across the back-line in a number of positions.
“You see across the board, he works on all aspects of his game. From defence to his footwork and evasion, to passing and high ball catching. He works tirelessly off the field in terms of the video room and making sure he’s prepped for every possible eventuality.”
The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!