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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019

O'Donoghue targets fast start to season to retain place in congested Munster back row

“Even for a younger lad and I class myself as one of the younger lads, it’s a chance for me to step up as a leader.”

The Ireland international has made an impressive start to the season.
The Ireland international has made an impressive start to the season.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

HIS PATHWAY HAS been one of progress through the Munster ranks over the years but Jack O’Donoghue knows the next couple of weeks gives him a great chance to take a big step forward.

Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander will return from Lions duty in the next few weeks, cranking up the pressure on the likes of O’Donoghue for inclusion in a back row already laden with Irish internationals.

But the 23-year old from Waterford is continuing to make progress. This season was the first that he returned a bit later than most others because he had been included in an Irish summer touring party for the first time.

He has chalked up 65 appearances since his debut this month three years ago off the bench against Zebre. Rassie Erasmus has plenty of options in the back row, but that’s nothing new for O’Donoghue.

“That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Since I came in there has never been a lapse, has there?

“That creates a good environment and good competition. When people get complacent is when teams’ performances might start slacking and it’s something in Munster that we have always driven, the standards off the pitch and on the pitch and good competition between players.

“You have your friendships off the pitch but it’s very competitive on the pitch.

“You go for coffee afterwards and there’s a lot of coaching between players and it’s something that is going to have to step up this year with the change in coaching staff, it’s going to have to be very much player driven for the season.

Jack O'Donoughe O'Donoghue speaking at yesterday's press conference in Limerick. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“And I think that’s where a lot of the older lads who have been away with the Lions and Ireland are going to have to step up. Even for a younger lad and I class myself as one of the younger lads, it’s a chance for me to step up as a leader.”

He’s been capped at U18, U19 and U20 level, made his senior international debut against Canada last November and picked up his second cap in Japan in June.

O’Donoghue was the academy player of the year in Munster in 2015, a season where he also captained the A side there, and an initial three-year contract was extended in March to hold him until at least June 2019.

But the key thing now for him is force himself into that congested back row and nail a permanent place.

“I have played in some big games but there is the challenge that you want to be starting for the European Cup games, starting for the inter-pro games and that’s something you’d be thinking about leading into this block of games.

“We have two tough away games. We have Ospreys, Glasgow and Cardiff and then the inter-pros and you want to be putting your best foot forward for the coach and giving them a headache. You have that bit of extra game time under you belt before Pete and CJ return in the next few weeks, I’m not sure exactly when but you want to be able to put your best foot forward for Rassie and Jacques and the boys and show them this is what I can do. This is what I bring to the season and really try and kick on,” he added.

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John Fallon

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