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Doris relishing restart with an Ireland team playing 'heads-up rugby'

The Leinster number 8 will be eager to bank 80 Test minutes after injury limited his time in the first three rounds.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JUST AS WELL Caelan Doris got his psychology thesis bound and submitted before sport could make its comeback from pandemic-imposed shutdown this year.

His chosen topic was the influence of home and away crowds on performance. Beginning that project while top level sport had nothing but empty stadia to show off would brought no end of complications.

Perhaps wary of getting too deep into the weeds on the subject, he concisely sums up what he has seen in fan-free games as a leveller.

“There’s probably a bit more parity playing at home versus playing away, it’s not as big a factor,” says Doris.

“That would be the main thing really, and then just playing in an empty stadium, obviously it’s very strange, it feels like a trial match at times and I think it’s important to try and build our own energy.

“Obviously it’s impossible to replace the crowd but just by celebrating the small wins and things like that, building a bit of a buzz among ourselves is important.”

Doris’ performances alone had created plenty of buzz during the first half of the 2019/ season, before the world changed. He was one of the few Irish players to impress in the crushing loss to England at Twickenham and he made himself a key man for Leinster on both sides of sport’s hiatus.

An early concussion in the opening round win over Scotland curtailed his Six Nations involvement for the first three rounds.

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As it comes back around he has a Leinster young player of the year award on the shelf, but he looks at his international minutes as a mark of the experience he has yet to accrue.

“I still have only had 25 minutes of international rugby so I’m still pretty inexperienced at this level. Obviously guys like Ryan Baird and that are cropping up but I still think I’m in that pretty youthful group.”

Before Doris took his seat in front of the laptop for a virtual press conference, head coach Andy Farrell had called on Ireland’s players to show more adaptability, to bounce back more effectively when Plan A had gone awry.

The chance to play a little more off the cuff would suit Doris just fine.

“It’s similar to Leinster in a way so I’m not too used to the overly-structured, it’s the way I like playing anyway,” says the Mayo man.

“I think he is backing us as rugby players to make the right decisions. He doesn’t want it to be overly-structured, he wants us to play heads-up rugby, see what’s in front of us and use our skill-set.

“Also the  game of movement and unpredictability and using the whole pitch in an unpredictable way.”

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