Matches against Connacht have been significant for Craig Casey in his burgeoning career but they will take on added significance from next season when his uncle Mossy Lawler will be plotting against him.
Lawler, capped 67 times by Munster, has been promoted to attack coach with Connacht having spent five seasons coaching in their academy, and having played a key part in his nephew’s development, will soon be trying to win against him.
Casey, who made his Munster debut off the bench against Connacht two years and his first start for the province against the same opposition six months later, said he’s thrilled that Lawler has been promoted to Andy Friend’s management team and he expects him to thrive.
“Obviously I’m delighted for him. It was the natural progression that he has taken. I think he went into the Connacht academy about five years ago.
“He’s coached Irish underage teams so I think it’s class to see that he’s going up to be a pro coach. I think it’s what he’s dreamed of since he retired.
“I know how dedicated he is, so Connacht will have a lot of dedication put into it, a lot of hard work so I don’t think he can be faulted on that. And then he likes to play good rugby and we will see that again with Connacht. We know that they play good rugby already so he’ll build on that I think.”
Casey will play against Connacht for the fifth time on Friday night when they clash in the Rainbow Cup at Thomond Park and he’s won all four games against them so far.
He turned 22 last month and having got a taste of the senior international squad after his superb displays in the U20 grand slam, he’s keen to add to his single cap against Italy in Rome in February when Ireland host Japan and USA in their re-arranged fixtures in July after the tour to Fiji had to be shelved due to Covid-19.
“It is definitely a goal of mine to be involved in those two games and make the most out of them. My focus lies on this weekend and the games coming up because I have to play my best to get on the squad. I am looking forward to the next few games, hopefully putting a run of games together and potentially getting on that squad.
“Irish camp was unreal. I would have liked to have been involved in a few more games obviously because of how competitive I am. It didn't go the way that I wanted it really, but to get the cap was class.
“I think being around such high-quality players, you see different perspectives on the game. You go into a winning environment and you have to learn there.
“The biggest thing I took from it is how quick you have to make decisions on the international stage, even at training. It's so much quicker than what you would think."
He's thrilled Conor Murray has been called up to his third Lions tour and appreciates all he has learned from his fellow Limerick native.
“It’s an incredible achievement. It’s a credit to the work that he’s put in. Learning off him for the last few years has been great. I keep coming back to this, when I was coming out of school I needed to work on my kicking and who better to have the best kicking nine in the world to work off. He gave me a lot of tips,” said Casey.
And he’s enjoyed working with Joey Carbery in recent weeks.
“He’s calm on the ball, he gives himself extra time and I think he’s probably a lot more loud than people give credit to him for, he can boss a game very well. I haven’t got too much time with him but I’ve enjoyed it. He’s taken me under his wing.”