There have been plenty of impressive performances over the past month and no shortage of candidates for the December RugbyPass Player of the Month award, making Caelan Doris’ eventual triumph all the more noteworthy.
The 21-year-old No8 has risen rapidly through the ranks at Leinster since standing out at under-20s level with Ireland, and he looks at home among the star-studded provincial and international back rows that he finds himself lining up alongside.
His winning of this award follows immediately on from Marcell Coetzee having picked up the gong in November in what has been a strong start to the season for the Irish provinces, with their array of back rowers in a particularly rich vein of form.
Doris was highly influential in Leinster’s back-to-back wins over Northampton in the Heineken Champions Cup earlier this month, laying a platform for his side’s backs to go to work from. Saints’ defence repeatedly struggled to stop the Mayo native from getting over the gain line and giving his side quick ball.
From a statistical standpoint, the back row made 140 metres on 32 carries across the two games, as well as 29 tackles, winning a turnover and grabbing a try. The numbers back up the all-action performances he put in.
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In addition to those two standout displays, Doris also returned to the starting XV for Leinster’s Christmas league trip to Munster, playing a pivotal role in not only delivering them the win but also bragging rights.
It was a much tighter game than the two against Northampton and Doris revised his role well, breaking the line closer to the ruck and providing Leinster with secure ball moving forward as Munster’s defence asked more strenuous questions of the reigning Guinness PRO14 champions than Saints did.
The youngster has some challenging competition moving forward, with Ireland international Jack Conan and likely international-in-the-waiting Max Deegan both vying for the same spot in the back row as Doris.
Leinster's new batch of 6'4 plus backrow athletes is already up and running, and the Six Nations window will be their proving ground
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 26, 2019
That said, if he continues to turn in performances such as the ones he put on in December, it won’t just be their provincial spots under threat, it will also be CJ Stander’s tenure as Ireland’s starting No8.
With Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Dan Leavy and the fast-rising Scott Penny also on the books at Leinster, the Dublin-based side boast potentially the best array of back row forwards anywhere in club rugby. Doris is beginning to show that he isn’t there just to make up the numbers in that stellar group, he is there to lead them.
A $100 donation from RugbyPass will be made to the charity of Doris’ choosing to reward his performances on the pitch over the last month.
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