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O'Donoghue looks to nail down Munster spot before chasing more Ireland caps

The 25-year-old made his most recent Test appearance in Japan in 2017.

IT’S OVER TWO years since Jack O’Donoghue’s most recent cap for Ireland in Japan – which was his second Test appearance -  so the Waterford man is understandably keen to push back into contention at international level.

Not that the 25-year-old will be shouting about his Ireland ambitions from the rooftops, aware as he is that there is only one way to earn a third cap and hopefully many more.

O’Donoghue has quietly become an influential figure within the Munster squad, with consistently strong performances when he’s been fit and with his leadership continuing to develop.

jack-odonoghue O'Donoghue at today's Pro14 media day in Cardiff. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The former De La Salle College student’s game has morphed over the years, with O’Donoghue’s lineout and maul skills now among his strongest weapons, although he retains the mobility which made him such an effective ball-carrier in earlier years. 

Big games like last weekend’s home draw against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup provide the perfect opportunity for O’Donoghue to show off his trajectory of improvement as a player and he understands that playing consistently well for Munster is key to any Ireland hopes.

“Look you have to have goals, you have to have the drive to be better,” said O’Donoghue at today’s Guinness Pro14 media day in Cardiff City Stadium.

“At the moment, it’s very much trying to get a starting place in the Champions Cup team and keep working on what I’m doing and build on the start of the season I had so far.

“But look, if that [an Ireland call-up] happens on the back of good performances, it happens. Certainly, at the moment it’s very much focus on this weekend and the next few games coming up.”

There are different views on what O’Donoghue’s best position is. He was a number eight coming through the underage ranks but has jumped between the number six and seven shirts for Munster in more recent times.

“You are always trying to focus on one spot but it is a squad game at the end of the day and you want to be in a position to get into a starting Champions Cup team whether that is at six, seven or eight,” said O’Donoghue of shifting between roles.

“You have to put your hand up and play where you are needed, not where you want to.” 

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tiernan-ohalloran-jack-odonoghue-and-luke-marshall O'Donoghue with Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran and Ulsterman Luke Marshall in Cardiff. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Of course, O’Donoghue’s wait for his next Ireland cap has seen him out injured for nine months after a horrific knee injury against Leinster in the Pro14 semi-finals in 2018. 

Fully putting that ordeal behind him has been important.

“I had a full pre-season under my belt, which was massive,” said O’Donoghue, who made his Ireland debut against Canada in 2016. “Getting the few games before the end of the season was great confidence-wise.

“Once I hit the pre-season it wasn’t a matter of having an injury, it was very much back to the way things were and I’m very happy with how this season has gone. Hopefully, now I can keep pushing guys who are in the team for spots.”

O’Donoghue is part of a Munster set-up that has a new feel about it this season with the arrivals of senior coach Stephen Larkham and forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who have brought vast experience with them.

“I’m incredibly impressed by both of them,” said O’Donoghue. “Steve came in pre-season so we had a good few weeks with him before we got started but he certainly put pressure on us to improve our skillset. I think we’re slowly starting to see that.

“With Graham coming in after the World Cup, I think he brought a new energy to the forwards. He’s finding his feet. We’re just building on what has been there before but it’s certainly looking positive.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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