Simon Easterby knows what it is to be dropped in at the deep end.
It’s 20 years since the current Ireland defence coach was one of five rookies parachuted into the national team’s ranks by Warren Gatland for that famous, game-changing Six Nations appointment with Scotland at the old Lansdowne Road.
Caelan Doris has played just 29 times for Leinster, and he is four years younger than Easterby when the latter made his bow, but there is no sense that this is a rushed promotion. The common perception is that this could, should, be the start of an extended service in green.
“You’ve got to start some time, don’t you?” said Easterby. “Were we meant to keep him for the summer games? He’s performing. All the players that have come, especially the guys that haven’t been capped, you can only judge them on what they’ve been playing against and how they’ve been playing for their provinces, particularly in the European Cup, and Caelan has been standing out.
“Max Deegan has been very good as well. Ronan Kelleher has stood out before his injury so we can only deal with and reflect on that they’ve done for the provinces over the last couple of months. I don’t see it as being too much of a step up. He’s made for this level of rugby.”
Easterby knows it won’t be note perfect. Is it ever? There will be times when Doris might be a half-step behind the pace or a mite too eager. Nobody is perfect, or a James Ryan, so the step up to test rugby is all about how quickly a man can adapt.
Jonathan Sexton, his club captain and skipper on this auspicious occasion too, put it succinctly. The first ten minutes? All about doing the basics. Bed in. Get to grips with your surroundings and survive that helter skelter introduction to the fast lane.
The other bits, the big breaks and the like, can come after that.
“Like Mike [Catt] said, ‘Just go out and be yourself.’ It obviously is a step up,” said Sexton. He has proven that he can stand out at European level. You have seen in his performances this year [for Leinster], that he has been outstanding in some big games.
“Even last year when he came in to play for us, only on a few occasions, but he stands out in training. I know form coming into the Six Nations is very important but the form you display in training with the coaches is as important.
“He has been outstanding since he came in. The message to him will be, ‘Go out, try and enjoy it.’ It’s hard to enjoy it when you are that nervous and you feel that pressure, but he is made for this and I suppose that’s what he has to try and get into his head.”
His father Chris actually bumped into CJ Stander just over six months ago and joked that his son was coming for the Munster man’s Ireland jersey. So it has proved with Stander shifting from No.8 to the blindside.
Not a big deal, said Stander, and it really shouldn’t be for somone who has played ample rugby for club and country as a No.6. The feeling is that Stander’s switch should actually improve the balance of the back row while Peter O’Mahony covers from the bench.
“I think guys have to be pretty flexible,” said Easterby. “In the World Cup, we saw guys moving around a bit, Pete moved to seven, and we have to have that flexibility in that starting pack.
“Caelan comes in for a well-deserved start and we’ve reshuffled a little bit but we have the added advantage of having the experience of Pete on the bench to cover across the back row. Every team has to be adaptable, particularly in the back row, but it doesn’t change things much.”
Try telling that to Doris today.