Caelan Doris spoke about how motivating it is to play in front of thousands of Ireland fans at the Stade de France, following the team’s impressive six-try dismissal of Scotland.
Tries from James Lowe, Hugo Keenan (2), Iain Henderson, Dan Sheehan and Garry Ringrose sent Andy Farrell’s men through to the last-eight where they will face New Zealand at the same venue next Saturday night.
The colour and noise brought by the travelling Irish support left a big lasting impression again, with Doris saying the fans ‘inspire us massively and drive us on in some of the tougher moments’.
Amongst the 78,459-strong crowd were the number 8’s parents, Chris and Rachel, and his older brother Rian who flew in from Los Angeles and made it an even more momentous occasion for the family.
“These games are special. The amount of Irish (people) coming over to support us is pretty insane, knowing they’re putting in time and money,” said Caelan.
“It’s a big motivation for all of us. I always love the bus trip as we approach the stadium and seeing everyone going crazy, waving at the bus, chanting.
“The ‘Zombie’ song afterwards when we’re doing the lap. They’re memories that will stay with us for a long time, but also fuel us going into this week ahead. It’s pretty special.
“I think there were 20 or 30 lads from my year (at school) over. My brother was over for his first ever game, from LA. Special days for sure.”
Doris pulled out a brilliant individual performance as Ireland prevailed 36-14 at the Saint-Denis cauldron. He was the team’s leading carrier (12), showed his breakdown smarts to win an important early penalty, and between himself and Josh van der Flier, they made over 40 tackles.
The Lacken man was also very good when in possession, fighting hard to make those difficult yards after contact, and his decoy running – especially in the build-up to the first of Hugo Keenan’s two tries – helped to give that extra bit of space and time to the backs.
He was delighted with the first 40 minutes, particularly as they looked to crown Peter O’Mahony’s 100th in some style, but the annoyance at coughing up two tries to Scotland out wide was also evident.
“We’ve had some decent results against Scotland over the last couple of years, but definitely felt we haven’t given our best performances,” he told Virgin Media Sport.
“That first half was probably pretty close to it, I’d say. Definitely always room for improvement, particularly in the second half. Disappointing to concede those couple of tries.
Another motivation was Pete’s 100th, what a servant he’s been over the last 10, 15, 20 years. Whatever age he is, I don’t know! But he’s given so much to the jersey and that was a motivation for us as well, to have a good performance for him.
“Give him back some of what he’s given to us and celebrate that with him, so it was a happy changing room afterwards.
“I used to love watching him when I was probably in school, when he first turned out (in 2012). I had to get that in there, the old ‘Haggard Badger’!”
Doris was ever-present during the unforgettable 2022 series win in New Zealand, experiencing that first Test low at Eden Park before history was made in both Dunedin and Wellington. He knows what a tough challenge Ian Foster’s charges will pose next weekend.
It will be Ireland’s third successive match in Paris against a team ranked in the world’s top five, following on from those defeats of South Africa and Scotland, and the 25-year-old reckons that both sides have improved since they last met 15 months ago.
“We’ll have tomorrow (Sunday) off and a bit of a slow start on Monday, that will be helpful getting a couple of sleep-ins. It’s massively exciting, I think it’s going to be pretty easy to turn the page and get stuck into this week,” he insisted.
“New Zealand have been pretty impressive. They’ve definitely improved since we’ve played them. We feel we have as well, and we feel we haven’t shown our best yet. So, yeah, it’s going to be a big one.
“I think you kind of push the nerves and talk about how big a game it is early in the week, and then as the week goes on you go back to basics and trust in ourselves as a team, trust in ourselves as individuals.
“The last four years in a way have been building for this. It’s exactly where you want to be. You want to play in the big games as a player, it’s why we do it. The group we have, we have good craic as well, even in the big weeks. It’s awesome, it’s exciting.”