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Confidence the key for O'Loughlin as he re-evaluates goals after breakthrough season

The Leinster back is recovering well after a shoulder injury.

O'Loughlin has impressed since breaking into the team.
O'Loughlin has impressed since breaking into the team.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IN A SEASON of breakthrough performances and outstanding individual contributions, Rory O’Loughlin’s emergence into one of the Pro12′s most devastating wingers has been the story of Leinster’s campaign to date.

Since breaking into the province’s senior set-up at the start of the year, O’Loughlin admits he has exceeded all expectations having grasped his opportunity with both hands.

The 23-year-old has quickly developed and grown in stature as the season has progressed, with confidence playing a big part in him becoming a key part of Leo Cullen’s plans.

“I had to re-evaluate my goals pretty quickly,” he admits. “I hadn’t even gotten my first cap coming into the season after the summer. That would have been my original goal and then obviously after getting the first cap, it would have been to progress and get a few more.

“My goals wouldn’t have been as high as they have come to have been so early this year. Even now I’m setting new goals towards the end of the season. It’s all about confidence because you can express yourself out on the rugby pitch.”

O’Loughlin has scored eight tries this term, including two in Europe, but missed Leinster’s Pro12 victories over Dragons and Scarlets having injured his shoulder in the win over Edinburgh last month.

He had been nursing the shoulder problem for a while but didn’t want to let it interrupt his fine season, so tried to manage it as best he could before another bang against Edinburgh led to further discomfort.

Rory O’Loughlin scores a try O'Loughlin has scored eight tries this season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I was back on the pitch yesterday [Tuesday], not really taking any hits yet but the rehab has been going well,” he explained. “It’s kinda gotten the rest it needed over the last few weeks so I’m hoping to be back in contention for the Cardiff game.

“I think the original one was back against Connacht and then I had just been managing it through. It’s not too serious that I have to get a procedure done thankfully.

“When you’re getting a chance like that and things are falling into place, the last thing you want to do is give it a break.

“I know from the past few seasons that if you do get a knock and you’re out for for three or four weeks, it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of things.”

Before picking up the knock, O’Loughlin’s name was being linked with Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations squad and although his form was recognised with a first Leinster senior contract, this year’s championship came a little too soon for him.

Nevertheless, a strong finish to the season with Leinster could well put him in contention for a place on the summer tour to Japan, an opportunity O’Loughlin says he would relish.

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“To be honest, before the Six Nations squad was announced, I wasn’t really expecting to be involved at all,” the former St Michael’s College student added. “I was competing pretty hard here for a place.

1284365-1-1550x1080 O'Loughlin launching the Leinster School of Excellence with Jack Conan and Ross Byrne. Source: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

“Now again, people are starting to talk about the Japan tour which obviously I would love to go on but there is a massive group of games left in the Pro12 and the quarter-final.

“I really want to play in those games and I think I need to focus on that first and try and get into those games. That’s the best chance of me making that next step up.

“Obviously there would an extra set of nerves stepping up to the international game but I think playing in Europe has really helped me gain the confidence of playing against players of that calibre.

“I would have to know but stuff obviously but I would be confident that I could make that step up.”

Rory O’Loughlin was speaking at the launch of the 2017 Bank of Ireland Leinster School of Excellence. More information can be found here.

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