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20-year-old Doris keeps head down as Leinster back Mayo man's talents

A former Ireland U20s captain, the number eight is highly-rated.

ASKED TO PICK out a player to watch this season, a potential World Cup bolter, many pundits nominated Caelan Doris.

After two seasons as number eight for the Ireland U20s, the excitement around the Mayo native wasn’t and isn’t surprising.

Caelan Doris Doris is hoping for another opportunity against the Kings at the RDS on Friday night. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The 20-year-old back row, who shone in schools rugby with Blackrock College, is clearly highly-rated within Leinster too, having made his debut last season and being fast-tracked from the academy onto a senior contract.

He’s had six starts in the province’s number eight shirt this season, meaning frustration for the highly-rated 22-year-old Max Deegan at times, and Doris has shown his promise while also demonstrating signs that he understandably still has much to learn.

So while the hype may have picked up in the wider rugby sphere before and during this campaign, the St Mary’s College man is keeping his head down and focusing on learning his trade.

“Not overly aware,” says Doris when asked if he’s aware of the predictions of a quick rise. “I get the odd text, my dad or someone might let me know now and again, but my focus is on playing here as much as I can, being in the matchday 23s as frequently as possible, and for the bigger games as well, hopefully.

“Obviously, this period of the season is great for some of the younger guys, senior academy players, when the internationals are away to get that week-on-week run of games.

“My focus is on performing well, getting opportunities here and hopefully they’ll come in the bigger games down the line.”

Doris has been a matchday reserve for Leinster for Champions Cup outings this season but is still waiting on his debut in Europe.

Barry Daly, John Fogarty and Caelan Doris Leinster announced that Aircoach will continue as the province's Official Coach Supplier. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

He spent 15 weeks of last season on the sidelines with a serious hamstring injury before returning for the World Rugby U20 Championship, captaining Ireland in a disappointing campaign that saw them finish 11th.

Doris comes across as a mature character and he’s adding strings to his bow all the time.

This season, he has been excellent in the lineout for Leinster – winning 13 so far in his nine appearances – a responsibility that is still relatively new to him.

“Underage and through school, I wasn’t involved with lineouts much,” he explains. “We’d often have five-mans and I’d be out carrying but since I’ve come in here, the academy last year and this season, it’s been a big work-on.

“I’ve put quite a lot of time into that and hopefully it’s starting to pay off now.”

Doris is an excellent ball-carrier and possesses an ability to offload out of the tackle too, although he has found these tasks more demanding in senior rugby.

“It’s a big step up – bigger guys, less space, more organised defences. I always look to run into the space, not the man, but there is less of that.

“Obviously, the players are better defenders, they make better decisions, so often you’re running into two defenders as well, so that was probably a bit of a challenge at first, but I’m getting a little more used to it as the season progresses.

“Compared to the 20s, where you’ve one guy hanging off instead of being hit by two, that’s probably the main difference I’ve noticed.”

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

There have been lessons across the board for Doris as he has settled into life full-time with Leo Cullen’s squad, even if some of them are perhaps only noticeable to himself and his team-mates.

“The others would be smaller, more detail things that I’ve tightened up,” says Doris.

“I would have been a bit raw coming in as an academy player last year. It mightn’t be that noticeable to the untrained eye – just things like getting my spacing right in defence, especially in the wider channels, getting linespeed there, decision-making at the breakdown, whether I’m going to hit it or stay out in defence.

“Those little things more than any one big thing.”

Doris is hoping for another chance to put what he’s learning into practice when Leinster host the Southern Kings at the RDS in the Guinness Pro14 on Friday night, although he’s keen to keep his natural skills to the fore too.

“You don’t want to become a robot,” says Doris.

“I want to keep my strengths in the carrying and getting my hands free. I will definitely keep practicing that.” 

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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