'I feel, particularly with Leinster... I haven’t played my best'
Ireland back-rower Caelan Doris actively avoids the media hype surrounding him and feels his own high standards are sufficient pressure going into his first World Cup.
Doris is tipped to shine on the biggest stage in France, having been one of his country’s leading performers of the Andy Farrell era.
The 25-year-old has ranked highly on a series of recent lists of rugby’s top players, while Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll is among his many admirers.
Doris believes he has room for significant further development and referenced comments from former Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip as he bids to remain grounded.
“I remember hearing Heaslip saying something like ‘If you get inflated, you get deflated’,” said Doris, who made his Test debut in the first match of Farrell’s reign in the 2020 Six Nations.
“Probably my first year or two, I didn’t seek stuff out but I did see more than I do now. I try not to look at anything.
“I try not to have anything like that in my head or any other people’s expectations, I think my own are enough.
“There’s still plenty of room for improvement but I’m moving in the right direction.”
Doris has been a key cog in Ireland’s rise to the top of the Test rankings with a string of man-of-the-match displays.
He has now lined up in all three positions across the back row following his two-try outing at openside flanker in last month’s warm-up win over Italy.
Ireland were far below their free-flowing best in dispatching the Azzurri, England and Samoa in August.
“There’s massive belief in the group going into the first game,” he said.
“Pre-season can be a bit of a funny time.
“It’s not an excuse but you’re not always primed for the games as you might be other ones: different combinations, playing in slightly different positions, things like that.
“We’re very aware that we haven’t played our best stuff. I definitely think we can put in better performances going forward.”
While Doris’ career has been on an upward trajectory, he has suffered frustration at club level with Leinster following successive European Champions Cup final losses to La Rochelle.
He has proven himself the man for the big occasion with standout displays in Ireland’s statement wins across the past two years and is determined to do so again in the coming weeks.
“I love playing in these bigger games,” he said. “I feel, particularly with Leinster when it comes to finals, I haven’t played my best.
“I’m excited by the challenge of trying to deliver on the biggest stage and put out some of my best performances. Definitely looking forward to getting stuck in.”
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