fresh face

'We think he'll add a dimension to us, especially in attack off the bench'

Max Deegan is set for his Ireland debut against Wales on Saturday.

APPARENTLY, MAX DEEGAN has a party piece lined up if he makes his debut for Ireland on Saturday against Wales.

The 23-year-old has been named on the Ireland bench by Andy Farrell and will hope to get his first taste of Test rugby at the Aviva Stadium.

With Caelan Doris ruled out after his second concussion of the season just three-and-a-half minutes into his debut against Scotland last weekend, Peter O’Mahony is promoted into the start team and Deegan takes the number 20 shirt.

max-deegan Deegan at Ireland training today. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

His team-mates believe the Leinster back row is ready to step up if called upon and Cian Healy jokes that Deegan will impress on and off the pitch.

“He’s got an unbelievable party piece,” said Healy today at the IRFU’s training centre in Abbottstown. “Hopefully, he gets a shot and you get to see that!

Healy wasn’t giving away any secrets.

“It’s a dance, that’s the height of it.”

On a more serious note, Healy is enthusiastic about what 23-year-old Deegan can bring for Ireland this weekend and beyond.

“He wouldn’t be put in if he wasn’t ready,” said Healy. “There’s a lot of lads in those positions that are pushing each other around looking for shots and they have all gotten to the place where they are vying for that, so it’s great to see him getting a shot.

“It’s unfortunate that Caelan had to sit out with his knock but I’m sure Max will be ready to go and looking forward to that opportunity.

“It’s something he’s trained for an awfully long time, with it being a dream of his to get to here, so it’s great to see that become a reality for lads nows.”

Head coach Farrell is similarly excited about giving Deegan a shot, having been impressed by the Leinster man’s form in the Pro14 and Champions Cup.

“He’s got all the attributes of a great back rower,” said Farrell. “You go into the unknown a little bit with international rugby but we feel he is ready. His ball-playing ability, his spatial awareness coming onto the ball and using his footwork.

max-deegan-cj-stander-and-mike-catt Deegan speaks to Ireland attack coach Mike Catt. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“He’s got nice soft hands at the same time. He’s got good leg drive in his carry. He’s a great all-round footballer and we think he will add a dimension to us, especially in attack off the bench.”

Farrell said Ireland weren’t willing to take any risks with Doris, who suffered a head injury on his first Champions Cup start for Leinster against Benetton back in November.

The unlucky 21-year-old will have to bide his time for cap number two and a proper chance to show his ability in Test rugby.

“Caelan had already had a knock this year, he’s a young boy and I think we’re doing the right thing by the young kid to let him recover properly,” said Farrell. “He’s in good spirits.”

However, Farrell named Dave Kilcoyne on his bench after the Munster man also took a big blow to the head against the Scots.

Kilcoyne is currently going through his return-to-play protocols and Ireland expect him to feature this weekend.

“Dave is fine at this moment in time and he has a couple of days to get through and we have Jack McGrath on standby,” said Farrell.

“It’s not tricky, we train anyway. Dave is part of the reviews and walk-throughs. He’s in a good place to come off the bench.”

Farrell confirmed that Ulster’s Will Addison was unavailable again this weekend due to a calf injury.

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