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Doris: I Feel Like I’m Coming Back A Better Player

Doris: I Feel Like I’m Coming Back A Better Player

Leinster’s Caelan Doris is hoping to leave his injury woes behind him as he prepares to lead the Ireland Under-20s into battle at the upcoming World Rugby U-20 Championship in France.

Despite missing out on the entire U-20 Six Nations campaign through injury, Caelan Doris was unveiled as captain for the World Championship by Ireland U-20 head coach Noel McNamara at yesterday’s squad announcement at the Dublin HQ of team sponsors PwC.

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Doris’ most recent international appearance was in last year’s U-20 World Championship when Ireland signed off on a frustrating tournament by defeating Georgia in the 9th-10th place play-off.

He has bounced back in style from the hamstring troubles that sidelined him in spring, with a senior debut for Leinster against Connacht at the end of April rounding off a productive couple of months for the promising back rower.

Speaking ahead of next week’s World Championship opener against hosts France in Perpignan, Doris is excited about the challenges that lie ahead, noting: “It was a long period out with the hamstring injury. I got a few games, came back with St. Mary’s – got 40 minutes with them. Then with Leinster ‘A’ and then I got my first cap. It was a nice linear progression there.

“Obviously when you are out, it’s frustrating at times, seeing everyone else doing well. But there were a lot of things I was able to work on. I feel like I’m coming back a better player, so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the World Cup.”

Although Doris, who turned 20 last month, was only informed about his selection as Ireland U-20 captain by McNamara late on Sunday evening, it is a role he has become accustomed to in recent years.

“I captained Blackrock (College) in school and I’ve worked with Noel quite a bit as well, captaining Leinster Under-18s and Ireland Under-18s. It’s quite a similar group, and a lot of the guys I would know from that and worked with before.”

While Doris first came to prominence at schoolboy level with Blackrock, he is actually a native of Ballina, Co. Mayo. His first taste of professional rugby did not go according to plan from a team perspective – Leinster suffered a 47-10 defeat in the final game of the GUINNESS PRO14 regular season – but he admitted it brought some poignant memories from his childhood.

“It was class. Leo (Cullen) actually said to me before the game that he made his debut in the Sportsground when he was 20, 20 years ago. The year I was born, so that was kinda cool. He came on as a back row that day as well, so hopefully I won’t make the switch to second row!

“It was such a nice day weather-wise. I’m from Mayo, so I would have played with the Ballina minis and actually played on that pitch with the Ballina minis. It was cool to be back in front of a full crowd. Obviously the atmosphere, because of (John) Muldoon’s last game, was extra special. It was just a pity about the result. Other than that, it was pretty good.”

With the structure of the competition meaning only the best runners-up can join the three pool winners in the semi-finals, every game in the World Rugby U-20 Championship is a must-win for this Ireland side. South Africa and Georgia will pose their own unique challenges, but Doris acknowledges that they cannot look beyond the opening day arm wrestle with the French.

“France at home is going to be huge. That kinda sets up the tournament for us. That’s the one we are looking at now at the minute. I’m really looking forward to it. Playing France, one of the first games of the World Cup in France. Big crowd. It’s going to be unbelievable.

“South Africa played England Under-20s two weeks back. They beat them by about 10 or 15 points. That will be a big challenge as well. Two big packs. France, South Africa, and Georgia as well. Physically, it’s going to be pretty big.”

Given their three pool encounters fall into an eight-day cycle, it important that Ireland utilise their limited recovery period between each game, with Doris adding: “The S&Cs we have, nutritionists and physios, they all drive it massively but I think there is quite an onus on the players as well for us to get in our recovery.

“Make sure we’re eating right, getting our mobility done, stretching and whatever needs to be done to be in the best shape. You only have one or two training days in between, so you need to be in good shape for those building into the next game.”