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'He's definitely got a big future ahead of him' - Leinster excited about Doris

The 20-year-old made his first start for the province in last weekend’s win over Cardiff Blues.

THE WHISPERS ABOUT Caelan Doris’ potential began when he was rising through the ranks at Blackrock College and developed into a roar as he emerged as a standout player for the Ireland U20s in 2017.

Still a year young for that age grade, the imposing number eight shone with his ball-carrying power, decision-making intelligence, defensive work-rate and sheer athleticism.

Caelan Doris speaks to his players Doris captained the Ireland U20s this year. Source: ©INPHO

Doris was marked out as a star of the future and though he missed the 2018 Six Nations in his second year with the team due to a hamstring injury, he returned as captain for the World Rugby U20 Championship in June and started all five games.

In recent months, word from Leinster camp was that Doris was looking as promising as they had hoped he would during pre-season training, with the number eight having moved onto a full senior contract.

His diligence during the summer months, as well as his rich potential, convinced Leo Cullen to hand Doris his first Leinster start in last weekend’s win over Cardiff Blues in the Guinness Pro14.

The similarly-promising Max Deegan had to settle for a place on Leinster’s bench as a result, with Doris given the chance to follow up on his senior debut as a replacement against Connacht at the tail end of last season by starting for the first time.

20-year-old Doris had some excellent moments across his 66 minutes but might reflect on several things he could have done better too, with the contact zone naturally proving to be a step up.

With Ireland international Jack Conan still to come back into the selection mix and Deegan keen to build on the exposure he gained last season, Doris will be fighting hard for further starts but Leinster are excited about his potential.

“He’s got a good mindset and fits in really well,” said assistant coach John Fogarty. “Sometimes guys coming in can be looking around a bit, but he’s fitted in.

Leinster's Caelan Doris Doris made his first Leinster start last Friday night. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“He’s a got a really good, dynamic carry and a good set of hands. 

“It was a step up for him, he found the intensity a step up and the pressure that was on us at different times. That’s always a step up for lads when they come in but he adapted really well and that’s something’s he’s done throughout pre-season.”

Ireland second row Devin Toner, who is set for his Leinster return this weekend against Scarlets, first played with Doris during the Connacht game last season and rates him as “a really talented prospect.”

Toner, who often calls the Leinster lineout, also feels Doris’ 6ft 4ins frame could be useful.

“I was delighted to see him getting his first start and hopefully he gets a few more this year,” said Toner. “He’s a really physical character and a good lineout option as well, which is good for me to know!”

It’s that physicality that struck Fergus McFadden most about Doris when they played together in a pre-season friendly against Bath in the summer of 2017, Leinster giving the back row some early exposure with the senior team at that stage.

“Sometimes guys come out of school and have done well at that level, then come up to the professional level with Leinster and it can take them a while to get used to the physicality,” said McFadden.

Leinster's Caelan Doris Doris makes a carry for Leinster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“But I remember that day some of the hits he was putting in and the carries, it was like he’d been there for a couple of seasons.

“I’m really excited for him in what will be his first proper season for Leinster.

“Obviously, with Jordi Murphy leaving to Ulster, there’s a slot open there and I’m sure Caelan will be able to fill those boots.”

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Murray Kinsella

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