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'His leg drive, his ability to not accept a close contact and just go down is pretty special'

By Liam Heagney
Photo by Brian Lawless - Pool/Getty Images)

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Rookie Test level back row Caelan Doris was the toast of the Ireland dressing room after his stellar performance was central to the 31-16 over Scotland in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup third-place playoff in Dublin. The 22-year-old’s debut lasted just four minutes due to concussion last February against the Scots.


However, he hung around for 66 minutes in this Nations Cup rematch to pocket the man of the match award on the back of a performance that saw him register a chart-topping 65 metres off 13 carries. 

It was his sixth Test appearance of 2020 – his fifth start – and his ability to cross the gain line suggests he might have shunted usual No8 CJ Stander to the blindside on a permanent basis.

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Johnny Sexton reacts to Ireland’s win over Scotland
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Johnny Sexton reacts to Ireland’s win over Scotland

“Incredible,” said Ireland captain Johnny Sexton when asked to comment on the youngster’s impact at Test level, exposure which culminated in Doris playing an important part in Ireland turning around a 3-9 deficit on 27 minutes to be 25-9 clear on 50 minutes.  

“Incredible year for him to come in and do what he has done. He has just been brilliant. Some of the carries he puts in for a man of his size, he is not a massive, massive man and he just comes out the other side of tackles. 

“He’s got an offload game, he’s got a nice short passing game. Off the base of the scrum, he is very calm and collected, he makes really good decisions when to go, when to pass. I’m not going to say he is the complete player. He can definitely keep getting better but he has had some big performances for us. There is definitely another level in him.”


Ireland coach Andy Farrell was equally effusive in his praise of Doris. “Yes, as impressed as you guys [the media] would have been. He’s some man for taking on one-on-one, isn’t he, and carrying people five metres over the gain line. 

“His leg drive, his ability to not accept a close contact and just go down is pretty special. He has learned a lot through this period. It was a priceless amount of time for Caelan to be in camp, to be in an international set-up for eight weeks as it is for many others within our group. 

“The learnings that those lads will take from this period is fantastic for us. They have learned a lot about themselves, what it takes to be an international player and perform and be themselves performance-wise in a very pressured environment. It’s one they will reflect on massively and come back bigger and stronger in the Six Nations.”

The win over Scotland meant Farrell signed off with a 66.6 per cent success rate in his first calendar year in charge, six home wins and three away defeats. Asked to assess the past twelve months he said: “A work in progress as it should always be. It’s well documented the number of players that we have used (42). 


“A few injuries along the way influenced that but at the same time, we have grown the group. We have a pretty diverse group during this time as far as maturity, age-wise regarding international rugby. I felt that gap has really closed and we have made some massive learnings. That will stand us in massive stead going forward.”  

Sexton, who suffered a dead leg against the Scots, added: “Today was a good end to the year. We needed to keep evolving, keep improving and we have.” Yet there was a sense of regret that Ireland hadn’t done better in 2020. 

“We are judging ourselves by the highest of standards. We wish we beat England away and we wish we beat France away.  We learned some valuable lessons, hard lessons from those games away from home. 

“I wish we were in there with a Six Nations trophy under our belt. It was there for the taking and there is no one who hurts more than us when we don’t perform in the big games. But it’s about what you take away from it and there are a few guys who played that day who will take a huge amount from it.”




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