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Dublin: -1°C Saturday 23 January 2021

Caelan Doris relishing another big occasion to underline his pedigree

The 22-year-old Leinster back row feels he saves his best performances for the biggest games.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CAELAN DORIS LOVES a big game. And he’s had his fair share of them over the past year.

12 months ago, the Mayo man had yet to start a European Cup match for Leinster, though his pedigree had been well flagged by the debut earned off the bench in a Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse.

Since his first start beyond the Pro14, however, his performances have had onlookers beyond these shores purring at his exploits and potential.

His first international was far from a perfect introduction to the big stage, the back row was left concussed just minutes into his debut. But once he was passed fit again, he returned to the green jersey as a replacement in Twickenham and was one of the few Irish players who improved their reputation in another humbling defeat to Eddie Jones’ side.

“I love playing in big games,” he says when asked what he has learned about himself since earning his place as a front-line stalwart for Leinster and Ireland.

“Probably even in school days I had some of my better performances in the cup and in bigger matches. The extra excitement bumps you up a level.

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“You probably get a bit extra out of yourself. It’s special being involved in big days. That’s why we’re all excited for Saturday.”

Saturday, in case it needs repeating is Ireland’s opportunity to claim a Six Nations title that seemed most unlikely when sport shut down in March. With a trophy in sight beyond the required bonus point win over France, Doris will be once again be found digging deep within himself for more.

irelands-caelan-doris Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There’s little alternative. In Andy Farrell’s camp the message is clear, if you ease off the pedal someone else will take the wheel. And in Doris’ case that someone is a Lions Test captain in Peter O’Mahony.

It’s quite the vote of confidence in a 22-year-old’s ability that Farrell is willing to hold such a proven talent, a contender for captaincy at the start of this year, in reserve.

You can bet O’Mahony makes Doris earn his place in every training session.

“We’re a tight knit group, there’s a big focus on enjoyment and getting to know each other on a deeper level. I think we’ve done that. We’re in a bubble here, so we spend a lot of time with each other.”

“There’s massive competition in camp. Every time you take to the field you have to be ready to perform. That prepares you as well as possible for the weekend.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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