Eoin O'Malley, the man expected to fill Brian O’Driscoll’s boots for Sunday’s Heineken Cup game with Clermont, is set to face the toughest test of his fledgling career when he faces French giant Aurelian Rougerie in midfield.
O’Driscoll suffered a jaw injury in Ireland’s final Autumn test game with Argentina in November, and O’Malley will be expected to go toe-to-toe with the enormous Clermont three-quarter.
“It’s something I’d be really looking forward to,” O’Malley told the Evening Herald. “It would be a big chance to prove myself and to play at that level would be pretty exciting.
“Obviously, he (Rougerie) is a world-class player, apart from his size, and I think they have those kind of players all across the team-sheet.”
Despite his size, the young Belvedere centre - who has been impressive for Leinster this season - has singled out the influence of the more senior players in aiding his development.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be training against Brian (O'Driscoll) and Gordon (D’Arcy) for the last few years and that’s a big enough challenge itself. I’m not the biggest man, so it’s not a surprise for me to be marking someone bigger than me,” he said.
“I’ll have to be fully focused. I’m looking forward to it.”
Current Leinster boss Joe Schmidt spent three years in Clermont as assistant coach and O’Malley feels that Schmidt’s inside knowledge of their French opponents can only benefit his side.
“It was Joe (Schmidt) who probably got them playing like that and hopefully he’ll know how to dismantle them as well,” O’Malley stated.