Upward Trajectory

Leinster's Doris resumes his rise after breakthrough season halted

The 22-year-old Mayo man made his Ireland debut earlier this year against Scotland.

THE COMEDOWN WAS fairly steep for Caelan Doris.

He made his Ireland debut against Scotland back in February, earning a turnover penalty in the opening exchanges, but was then cruelly forced off with a concussion after just four minutes.

He had to sit out the meeting with Wales a week later before making a return off the bench against England in round three of the Six Nations. Doris was gearing up for Andy Farrell’s side’s meeting with France when, suddenly, Covid-19 started to have a huge effect on our lives.

caelan-doris-tackles-peter-omahony Doris tackles Peter O'Mahony two weekends ago. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

With the Six Nations postponed, Doris returned to Leinster, was briefly lined up for the province’s Pro14 tour to South Africa in March before that was called off, and then it was into lockdown.

“It was definitely strange going from being completely in the mix and in the buzz of everything to no rugby at all,” says the 22-year-old.

“But at the same time I kind of switched my focus to seeing the positives, an opportunity for some physical growth, for a bit of rest.

“I had a few niggles, so got rid of those. I had a few concussions as well, so a bit of time for the brain was no problem there as well.”

Doris moved back home to Lacken in north Mayo for lockdown, where he took a breather and then threw himself into getting better.

The squat rack and weights he and his brother had installed two years ago proved very useful and Doris also focused on improving his skills.

“I set up a few wheelie bins,” he explains. “I had a fair bit of space around the garden, it’s pretty rural. I did lots of catching and passing and offloading, with my parents as well.

“My dad still says he’s better than I am so I’ve a bit of a way to go! My mum is actually pretty good as well, to be fair to her.”

caelan-doris-is-tackled-by-cj-stander Doris fends Munster's CJ Stander. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Having made the best of the time away from Leinster and rugby, Doris is relishing every moment of being back in the thick of it as he and his team-mates prepare for tomorrow night’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final clash with Munster.

Doris was one of the many frontline players Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster rested for last weekend’s clash with Ulster, meaning they have been able to build for this Munster game from some way out.

Doris explains that the rested players “went pretty hard” in training last Thursday and Friday and he was happy they “got a little bit of a head start” given that this match week is relatively short.

He’s a number eight by trade but Doris was at blindside flanker for Leinster two weekends ago against Munster and looks likely to continue there tomorrow night, with Jack Conan having returned from injury to take over at the back of the scrum.

“There’s a few nuances to it,” says Doris of wearing the number six shirt. “A bigger involvement in the lineout, both in attack and defence; a little bit off restart, it’s a small bit different there but I think they’re pretty happy for me and Jack both to play, in general, in unstructured play to play an eight role, the two of us.

“They want us to get into the thick of things rather than worry too much about holding too much width and stuff like that. So not too different.”

Doris and co. will be going up a Munster team full of their international team-mates, including in the back row where captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander bring fine form into this semi-final.

“I think they’re both very professional,” says Doris when asked what they were like to work with in Ireland camp. “You see that off the pitch, you see the attention to detail that goes into their preparation.

leinsters-josh-van-der-flier-caelan-doris-and-jack-conan Doris and Conan were in the same back row two weekends ago. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“Pete in the lineout in particular, obviously he’s prolific in the lineout and a very good defender but that comes from all the preparation, all the scouting he does. So it was interesting to get an insight into that.”

Stander won four jackal penalties against Leinster last time out, meaning the eastern province have an obvious focus coming into tomorrow.

“We’ve talked quite a bit around it in training, being really early with our bullets, identifying him early and not giving him a sniff. Being there before the opportunity presents himself. 

“He’s obviously a very good ball carrier as well, so two-man tackles on him, one low and one high sort of thing is going to be important as well but I think he was most destructive at the breakdown against us so that’s going to be a big one.”

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