Keenan keen to kick on after starting all six of Ireland's autumn games

The Leinster man was uncapped before this busy run of Tests for Andy Farrell’s side.

Keenan has impressed over the course of this autumn.
Keenan has impressed over the course of this autumn.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IF IRELAND SUPPORTERS had been asked to guess which players would start all six of the autumn games for Andy Farrell’s side, there surely wouldn’t have been too many who picked out Hugo Keenan alongside Andrew Porter and James Ryan.

Keenan came into this busy run of games without any Test caps but he ends it with six of them after grabbing his chances with both hands.

Andy Farrell has given debuts to 11 players in 2020 and Keenan is surely second on the list behind only Caelan Doris in terms of standing out among the fresh faces.

Keenan has bagged three tries across his two starts on the left wing, two on the right, and two at fullback as he has shown himself to be adaptable and comfortable in international rugby.

Remarkably, the 24-year-old now returns to Leinster duty keen to make just his second appearance in the Champions Cup.

“I’ve only got one European cap, so I want to get a few more!” said Keenan on Saturday night after Ireland’s 31-16 win over Scotland. “I’m still relatively inexperienced at that level so I want to test myself at the top club level.”

Despite his heavy workload in recent weeks, the former Ireland 7s international is hoping to be straight back on Leinster duty against Montpellier on Saturday and joked that “I’m not one of the old lads, so I’m good to go again.”

While he is already looking forward, Keenan has to be pleased when he reflects on this autumn with Ireland.

“Jeez… six starts, I would have bitten your hand off for it at the start, 100%, even just to get into the squad from the start.

“It’s been very enjoyable, the eight weeks have flown by and yeah, it’s been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot in fairness.

hugo-keenan-scores-a-try Keenan scored three tries in his first six caps. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s been some experience for me, thrown into the deep end a bit and you sorta sink or swim and a lot of the times it’s those mistakes… you get punished at this level, don’t you, for just small things and you have to be on everything.”

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But Keenan isn’t quite pinching himself after his autumn achievements. Having been away with the Ireland 7s for a couple of seasons, his rise with Leinster was relatively late but that did allow him to come into Ireland 15s camp with a degree of maturity.

He timed his good post-lockdown form with Leinster very well as Ireland boss Farrell was forced to look at a few different options in his back three due to injuries.

“A lot of the time it’s just about biding your time,” said Keenan. “Opportunities come at different stages for different people. I’m 24 at this stage so I feel like I’ve been waiting long enough. It’s not like I’m a 21-year-old bursting onto the scene. I’ve had to be patient.

“I was just lucky enough to get an opportunity with Leinster firstly, those big games, the semi-final, final, the quarter-final and then you just have to take those opportunities.

“Looking back now, it’s been a good few months but it’s still only the start of the season so there’s plenty more to come.”

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Murray Kinsella

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