Dave O’Callaghan is only 25, but with a ready supply of youngsters coming through the Munster system he’s already beginning to feel old.
Last weekend, 18-year-old Bill Johnston made his first start for the province in the win over London Irish and his ability to mix it against a physically daunting opposition suggests it’s only a matter of time before he makes his competitive debut.
As O’Callaghan prepares for tomorrow night’s Guinness Pro12 opener against Treviso at Musgrave Park (7.45), he took time out to talk about Johnston.
“You don’t want to blow him out of proportion, but you forget he’s (only) 18 because he’s talking up the whole time at meetings, he’s not afraid to have a go at a fella to tell him what’s right. He really knows his stuff for a guy who has just done his leaving cert. He’s there running the show at out-half. You can see it, he’s enjoying himself. He has all the attributes and it’s exciting.”
Overall, O’Callaghan said, it been an interesting and productive pre-season: “We had a massive pre-season, a great couple of months there. Fellas are fitter and stronger than they were this time last year so we’ve done our trial games and we’ve ironed out a few things.
“We obviously had two losses and a win and we looked at things that were working and what was not, and now it’s play for keeps this weekend.”
Having fully recovered from a knee injury, O’Callaghan is looking forward to the new competitive campaign but is conscious that he will have to step up to the plate to getting regular match time.
“It’s always the same at Munster, the back five is always going to be competitive. Even with Pete (O’Mahony) gone away and Tommy (O’Donnell) out injured, there’s still a massive group there and in the second-row you see Mark Chisholm coming over.
Where he plays in where head coach Anthony Foley sees the best fit, but O’Callaghan hopes it in the back row, preferably at number six.
“It is my favourite position, I see myself there but, in saying that, if needs be I can play in the second row. I played there under age, I played there at senior level and it’s definitely an option for me.”
Wherever he is slotted in tomorrow night, he’s expecting a tough, physical, confrontation against an Italian side well capable of doing a number.
“They always bring something different, especially at line out time. They’re a massive direct pack so we know we’ll be tested everywhere.”
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