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Uncapped hooker Sheehan 'hits the ground running' to earn shot against Japan

The Leinster hooker is set for his Ireland debut off the bench on Saturday.

Sheehan at Ireland training this week.
Sheehan at Ireland training this week.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

DAN SHEEHAN HASN’T even played a Champions Cup game for Leinster yet but he is set for his Ireland debut on Saturday against Japan.

The 23-year-old has been named on the bench by Ireland boss Andy Farrell in his squad to face the Brave Blossoms this weekend in Dublin.

Sheehan, who first burst through for Leinster last season, still only has 17 senior appearances under his belt for the province but there is no doubt about his athleticism, size, and skill level.

Farrell has opted to start another 23-year-old, Rónan Kelleher, at hooker on Saturday, with Rob Herring absent from the matchday 23, but he’s excited to see what Sheehan can bring from the bench.

“I’ve seen what you hope to see when you work with somebody for the first time,” said Farrell of the impact Sheehan has had in Ireland camp over the past two weeks.

“He’s somebody who has come into a daunting environment and rolled his sleeves up and said, ‘Right, I’m going to show I belong here,’ and he has definitely done that.

“That’s what we’ve seen in the past with the likes of Hugo Keenan, Caelan Doris, Rónan Kelleher to a certain extent as well.

“Dan has come in and hit the ground running. Of course, he has made his errors like everyone has. It’s certainly not going to be perfect on the weekend for him but he has got the bit between his teeth and he is trying to show the rest of the squad that he belongs.”

The 6ft 3ins, 110kg hooker certainly looks the part and could form a dynamic hooking combination with Kelleher moving forward, even if Herring’s lineout throwing quality and work-rate shouldn’t be dismissed. 

Some Ireland fans hoped to see more experimentation in the Ireland side for this weekend but Farrell revealed that Gavin Coombes was unavailable for selection after struggling with a virus all week. The Ireland boss confirmed it was not Covid-19.

andy-farrell Farrell said Gavin Coombes was unavailable. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I get it, everyone wants to see the next cab on the rank and the next exciting youngster but Gavin has been ill all week so that has ruled him out,” said Farrell.

“Rob Baloucoune has got tremendous potential but he has been injured for a good while and he is just finding his feet. He has come back into the squad after being involved in the summer.

“Some lads find their feet straight away, like Dan Sheehan, and some take a little bit more time. You bring in an extended squad for the Autumn Nations Series and that will be great for some of the lads.”

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As has been the case in Leinster this season, Andrew Porter has switched across to the loosehead side of the front row for Ireland and Farrell is excited to see the 25-year-old adapt at Test level.

“He has been great. The scrums have been very competitive, as you would imagine. We have picked a big enough squad to make sure that that is competitive at the set-piece.

“You always want to keep improving in that aspect. To see Ports and Tadhg [Furlong] on the field together at the same time is something that I’m sure we’re all looking forward to.

“We all know his background as a junior coming through. I was there in 2015 when we was toying with the idea and we saw him have a fantastic game against Wales in the loosehead position as well.

“He has been more than open to the idea and he has had a full summer to get stuck into it. He is very comfortable with the fact that we know he is a top-class tighthead as well but he has taken to the loosehead side of things and we’re all excited to see how he goes.”

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Murray Kinsella

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