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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Unfazed, in-form Doris ready for full run-out at the Aviva

The Leinster 8 is hoping to force his way into an Ireland jersey at the venue before the season is out.

WHEN LEINSTER RUN out at the Aviva Stadium this weekend they will line up for kick-off with a young number eight who has wasted little time in making himself a key man.

Caelan Doris won’t feel overawed.

The occasion carried more pitfalls last weekend and the Premiership leaders, with their experienced out-half, made sure to test the mettle of the 21-year-old with repeated restarts landed on top of him.

His powerful carries back from Dan Biggar’s kicks were a stinging riposte that helped set Leinster on the path to victory over Northampton. 

The venue, he insists, is no cause for trepidation either. That’s not because Doris claims to have hoovered up all available knowledge in the two April minutes he played in the Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse or the dry run against Bath this time last year. Instead, it might be down to his mental approach, a willingness to interrogate why a venue can be a factor.

Through his degree in psychology, Doris will undertake a project on performance in home and away environments, though it’s not an issue suffers from himself. 

“I highly enjoy playing away, I like coming up against hostile crowds,” he says with relish, though a festive Saturday evening at the Aviva might require him to shut out more of the crowd than he grates up against.

The approach and preparation will be the same, however.

“Not too much (changes), for Heineken Cup games we meet up in UCD and get the bus down together, whether it’s in the RDS or the Aviva, so that would be the same.

“Obviously it’s cool, the whole set-up of the Aviva, the changing rooms and the pitch and all, it’s a pretty cool experience.

“I was 24th for the Bath game as well so got the experience of that as well, but in terms of the regime on the day it’s not too much different.”

If it ain’t broke… 

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Outwardly, Leinster coaches and players have been highlighting areas which they need to improve. But their seven-try win over Northampton was a thrilling spectacle and a showcase for the brilliant highs they are capable of.

The 16-43 triumph was the eastern province’s 10th straight win since the season kicked off. And while the senior internationals are vital to reaching the ‘Test level’ performance that overawed Chris Boyd’s side, Doris has been core in both front and second line teams having played eight times in the 10-game run.

“It took a while to adjust to the physicality and the speed and all of it, but I’m definitely a lot happier with the start of this season compared to last year. I think I have come on a bit,” he says modestly.

Probably stick to the same core principles, running hard and good footwork, things like that. There’s obviously not as much space at this level. Bodies are bigger and guys are better decision-makers as defenders. It’s probably just adjusting to that. I haven’t tweaked too many things in terms of my carrying. I’m making a few more metres this year than last year anyway.”

“Hopefully there is still lots of room for improvement. I’m enjoying it massively as well, which I think leads into that. The Glasgow game over there was probably the most enjoyable game I have played for Leinster so far: hostile environment, -2 or -3 degrees and just how we ground out the win. We didn’t even give them the bonus point towards the end so that was incredibly enjoyable.”

While it can attributed in no small part to the absence of Jack Conan so far this season, Doris’ rise is a rapid one. And as long as he is holding on to a starting berth in the Leinster pack, he has a right to be considered for international camps and potentially the Six Nations under Andy Farrell.

caelan-doris Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The would-be sports psychologist in Doris kicks in as he insists his focus won’t drift beyond the coming fixture, but he’ll have to acknowledge the carrot dangled before him soon. 

“I genuinely haven’t thought about it too much, but I suppose naturally if you’re starting 8 for Leinster and obviously with Jack out as well, and if you’re performing there could be an opportunity there. 

“But as I said my focus has been on performing for Leinster and doing my best there, and not worrying too much about what will happen in the future.”

He adds: “It is so competitive in here that my main focus is on here and trying to get the 8 jersey and play the best that I can when I get that opportunity. So I haven’t really thought too far beyond that. It’s not a guarantee at all that I am going to be in this position…

“I’m enjoying it at the minute and hopefully if I get the opportunity again I’ll take it with both hands again.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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