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Out-half Frawley's favoured position, but he'd 'play anywhere in the blue jersey'

The 20-year-old starred for Leinster in their big win over Ospreys on Friday night.

THERE WAS SO much to like about Leinster’s collective performance in their seven-try rout of the Ospreys on Friday night, but among the chief takeaways was the excellence of Ciaran Frawley at out-half.

On just his second senior start for the province, Frawley exuded confidence and conviction in everything he did, kicking 17 points from the tee and showing impressive playmaking ability throughout.

Ciaran Frawley with Tom Habberfield and Cory Allen Frawley in action against Ospreys on Friday night. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Deservedly named man of the match, one of the standout features of Frawley’s performance was his work-rate and appetite to defend his channel, never shirking from any responsibility in that regard to complete eight tackles.

On the ball, the Skerries man pulled the strings behind a dominant pack, not only defying his relative inexperience at this level, but showing maturity behind his 20 years to dictate proceedings. 

His willingness to take the ball to the line, coupled with his smart and accurate kicking game — both from hand and the tee — and crisp distribution skills, makes Frawley an exciting prospect for Leinster.

The out-half’s match statistics are impressive. 25 passes, 12 runs and two line breaks provides a snapshot of his influence, while his place-kicking was absolutely faultless as he slotted over all eight attempts.

It’s hard to believe it was Frawley’s first start of the season, and just his fifth senior outing, after an arm injury suffered in pre-season had ruled him out for the early rounds of the Pro14 campaign. 

Sitting beside Leo Cullen at the post-match press conference, Frawley — who played at 12 during his time with Ireland U20s — was asked where he sees himself going forward, with his skillset no doubt conducive to him becoming a viable option at centre.

“I just like being versatile so I can jump in and out of position,” he said. “My favourite position would be 10 but I’d play any position once you’re pulling on the blue jersey. I’d go anywhere Leo wants me too.  

The U20s was very beneficial for me. I played 12 for the 10 games [at U20 level] and I think that brought my defence on immensely because I would have been more of a passive defender coming through with Skerries anyway. U20s gave me that encouragement just to go and hit people.

The same question was put to Cullen.

He smiled: “Wait and see, we’ll wait and see. We saw him at 10 today.”

Either way, Frawley doesn’t lack confidence or ability and is just one of a number of prodigiously talented players making an impressive breakthrough at the province.

“Yeah, definitely, I’m comfortable at this level now,” he added. “It’s just really comfortable in training, we’re always training with the seniors and when it comes to a stage like this when we’re called up to play, we’re comfortable and we know the system.”

Frawley was awarded the sponsor’s man of the match award, but in truth it could have gone to any number of Leinster players, including debutant Scott Penny or captain on the night Scott Fardy to name just two.

Overall, it was another excellent night’s work for Cullen’s side as they handed out three debuts, earned five important points and extended their lead at the top of Conference B to 10 points. 

Conor O'Brien celebrates scoring a try with Ciaran Frawley Frawley celebrates with Conor O'Brien. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

For Cullen, it’s crucial to collect as many points at this stage of the season to take the pressure off at the back end of the campaign, when Leinster will hope to be fighting on two fronts again.

“Well you saw it last year the way our conference unfolded at the end,” the head coach continued. “We had enough points, we finished on the same amount of points as Scarlets but our points difference was better so the players are aware that all those points in the game are hugely important as well.

“It keeps us in a good position in the conference, we’re still in control of our destiny and we can manage things on our terms. Europe then is a slightly different dynamic for the week after but for us we’ll focus on Dragons now next week.”

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Friday’s 52-7 win at the RDS was an excellent start to a crunch block of fixtures for the defending European and Pro14 champions, with the back-to-back Champions Cup games against Bath coming on the horizon, before attention turns to the Christmas and New Year inter-pros.

With Cullen expected to be boosted by the return of some of his internationals for the round 10 trip to Rodney Parade this Saturday, competition for places is extremely high as the younger players continue to push their case for selection.

The guys have worked hard, they’ve been unbelievably diligent. They know, they’re watching a lot of guys who they train with every day going out to play against the All Blacks, and I think that’s given guys a lot of confidence as well.

“Guys that they’re used to training with and being around and seeing how they perform on that stage [against the All Blacks], has given the group a lot of confidence.

“They have the jerseys at the moment, these guys that were playing today, and if I was them and in their shoes I wouldn’t want to be giving them away in a hurry.

“This is their window, so they need to make sure they do everything they possibly can. It’s building connections around you, it’s not like they’re going out to play on their own.

“They’re going out to play with the other guys who are in the squad and making sure they know what the coaches want and the fundamentals of the game that we’re looking at, rather than individuals pulling off moments of individual skill. It’s about what we want as a collective.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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