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'I was joking that he's going to take my spot' - Stander on Ireland debutant Doris

The Munster man has shifted to blindside flanker to make way for the 21-year-old Leinster back row.

LAST YEAR, CJ Stander joked that Caelan Doris was going to take the Ireland number eight jersey he had been occupying.

The joke was actually shared between Stander and Doris’ dad. 

And so it is that Munster man Stander has shifted to blindside flanker for tomorrow’s Six Nations opener against Scotland in Dublin, with head coach Andy Farrell handing Doris his Test debut in the eight shirt.

Stander is content to move back into the familiar number six jersey he wore for the first chapter of his Ireland career, and he smiled when recounting how he and Mr. Doris had spoken about the rise of the 21-year-old Leinster man last year.

jordan-larmour-and-caelan-doris Caelan Doris [right] walking out for Ireland's captain's run at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I actually just met his dad around seven months ago and he told me his son was coming through,” said Stander after Ireland’s captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium today. 

“We were joking… I was joking about it that he’s going to take my spot. I said to him then just to make sure that he enjoys it and trains hard, like anyone else.

“Caelan is a great ballplayer, he’s got a good work-rate and he’s still young so there’s a lot more to come from him, I’d say.

“[Blindside] is a place I’m familiar with in this squad, it’s not really a big switch for me, it’s just a number change. I think my job there is to just make sure I get into space a little bit and work with the boys around me, give them an easier job.”

Stander’s move to six means that his Munster captain, Peter O’Mahony, drops out of Ireland’s starting XV for tomorrow and instead takes a spot on the bench.

Even with Josh van der Flier remaining at openside flanker, it means a very different-looking Irish back row to face the Scots, although assistant coach Simon Easterby is content that the starting trio can cover all bases.

“I think guys have to be pretty flexible,” said Easterby, a former back row for Ireland. “In the World Cup, we saw guys moving around a bit, Pete moved to seven, and we have to have that flexibility in that starting pack and guys coming off the bench.

“Caelan comes in for a well-deserved start and we’ve reshuffled a little bit but we have the added advantage of having the experience of Pete on the bench to cover across the back row. Every team has to be adaptable, particularly in the back row, so it doesn’t change things much.”

the-ireland-squad-to-play-scotland-in-round-one-of-the-guinness-six-nations The Ireland squad for tomorrow's clash with Scotland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

O’Mahony is regarded as one of the best lineout forwards in the game, meaning Ireland lose that specific skillset, but Easterby is confident the starting pack can adapt to the rejig.

“Pete has a world-class ability in the air and there’s not many better but we have to be able to adapt to the guys we’re using,” said Easterby. “We have the ability to challenge, we’re good on the floor, and making sure we’re not giving them the opportunity to challenge us. I think that’s something our groups have been working really well with.

“The new hookers coming in, it’s been a good challenge for them working with different guys, the callers and guys who are being lifted.

“We’re going to come up against a side who will try to put a lot of pressure on us, they’ve got some good guys in the air. We have to be able to manage that and take the ball where we can but we also have the advantage of experience off the bench in Dev [Toner] and Pete.”

Easterby insisted Ireland’s lineout calling duties will be shared tomorrow. Iain Henderson carried out this job at the World Cup, but James Ryan has been growing in the role with Leinster and has done it for Ireland on a handful of occasions too.

“Tomorrow will be a bit mixed, so we’ll have a bit of a moving feast. It won’t just be one person, we’re going to make sure we try to share the load,” said Easterby.

“To be fair, the guys have been interchanging since we’ve come together and hopefully tomorrow you’ll see the return on some of the good work we’ve been doing.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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