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The emerging stars of the 2019/20 season: Craig Casey

The 20-year-old scrum-half will move onto a senior contract next season.

FOR EARLIER PIECES on some of the young players who showed their promise in senior rugby in the 2019/20 season, click here.

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Munster scrum-half Craig Casey shot into the wider rugby consciousness last season, when his all-energy, controlling, skillful performances were an important feature of the Ireland U20s’ Grand Slam success in 2019.

Showreel moments like the 5ft 5ins halfback’s tackle on France U20 powerhouse Jordan Joseph added to the clamour around Casey’s talent, but those closest to the youngster had long seen him as a player with a big future.

craig-casey Casey is a superb passer of the ball. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Casey is a Shannon RFC man born and bred. His father, Ger, was part of the club’s coaching team when they won the AIL in 2009 while ex-Shannon and Munster player Mossie Lawlor is his uncle.

While he also shone in the schools game for Ardscoil Rís, captaining them to a Munster Schools Senior Cup semi-final in 2017, Casey remains a proud Shannon man and has played plenty of AIL rugby for the club, impressing with his ability to dictate the tempo of games from the nine jersey.

20-year-old Casey’s progress has also continued at senior level with Munster, having moved onto a development contract this season and with a full senior contract awaiting him for the 2020/21 campaign.

Casey has had three starts this season in the Pro14, having made his senior debut off the bench against the Ospreys in October. He was in the nine shirt for the away win over Connacht in December, started on a trip to Zebre, and was also part of the starting XV the last time Munster played – against Scarlets in Thomond Park on 29 February. 

In the Champions Cup, Casey got a very short runout away to Racing 92 in Munster’s defeat in Paris in January but then made a try-scoring home European debut off the bench against the Ospreys a week later.

Casey’s try came with his second touch after coming on, with a powerful Munster scrum marching forward to leave him in position to pick, throw a clever dummy, and dart over for a very well-received try at Thomond Park.

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craig-casey-scores-their-fourth-try Casey scores against the Ospreys in the Champions Cup. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It’s clear how much excitement there is about Casey’s talent within Munster, as well as how much goodwill there is towards such a proud homegrown player. There isn’t a huge Limerick representation in the squad at present, so Casey’s emergence has been very welcome.

His passing is particularly eye-catching and, indeed, reminiscent of Peter Stringer’s. Like the great two-time Heineken Cup winner, Casey obviously has a lower centre of gravity and can fire passes straight off the deck with minimal need for steps to deliver power.

His technique is evidence of his diligence in mastering the core skill of his role as a scrum-half, while Casey’s kicking game is also sharp for a player of his age.

As we saw for his try against the Ospreys and with the Ireland U20s before, Casey is more than capable of attacking the fringes of set-pieces or rucks with his sniping game. While he is very light at around 76kg, his acceleration, footwork and aggression are assets in this regard.

Again, his size makes it easy to suggest Casey as a potential weak link in defence but he is a very willing tackler and can even put himself into dangerous positions in his desire to pitch in.

The relentless fire that Casey brings on the pitch is his driving force, of course, while he is not shy of demanding exactly what he wants from the forwards in front of him.

craig-casey Casey moves onto a full senior contract next season. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Casey has had injury troubles already in his young career, spending more than a year out of action due to two knee injuries and a procedure on his back when he was in the Munster academy.

He missed out on possibly playing for the Ireland U20s in 2018 but he has more than made up for the time out since his return to full fitness, with his rise continuing at speed ever since, even if he naturally still has much to learn at the top level.

Ireland international Conor Murray remains the first-choice scrum-half for Munster but Casey will be targeting many more Pro14 starts and Champions Cup appearances in 2020/21.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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