New Munster signing Sean Dougall has just one regret — and it’s that he won’t get the chance to line up alongside a man he regards as one of the modern greats of back-row play, the recently retired back-rower David Wallace.
The 22-year-old recruit from Rotherham holds up Wallace — forced into retirement at the back end of last season — as one of three iconic figures whose careers have greatly influenced him and mentions him in the same breath as New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw and Australia’s David Pocock.
From age 14, Dougall has made open side his preferred position, noting, for instance, that he would hate to be stuck in the front row even if it suited his physical make up.
“I was always a seven and looking at the likes of David Wallace over the years; players of his type made me want to be a seven.
“His retirement is, I suppose, an opportunity, but there is a lot of competition there still. Actually, when I signed I was looking forward to playing for the same team as the likes of David; to have somebody like that to bounce ideas off and [to] have a mentor like that would have been great.”
Dougall still expects hot competition for the coveted jersey, knowing that Niall Ronan has yet to return after injury and South African CJ Stander will provide another challenge.
“Niall Ronan has a lot of experience, he’s a fantastic player. CJ has been playing great rugby down in the southern hemisphere so I have my work cut out. I just have to focus on my own game, train well and, fingers crossed, it will fall into place.”
Dougall was one of an elite band of exile players to represent Ireland at both under 18 and 19 levels. He was snapped up by Ulster as an Academy signing but was unfortunate to have been afflicted by injuries.
Those problems are now behind him; he reminds us that he has gone over two seasons without injury, has amassed a huge amount of game time with Rotherham and his standing was such that he was regularly named by them as captain in his second season.
He was approached and monitored by Munster over a period of time before being offered a contract which he had no hesitation in accepting. He was born in Scotland, raised in Durham but raised very much as Irish. For that reason, he feels at home.
His popularity was such in Rotherham that he got an enthusiastic send-off, and he noted that the club members and coaching staff saw his move to Munster as a vote of approval in a sense for the English club.
He now looks forward to developing his game to bring him to another level: “This is an opportunity to develop parts of my game that perhaps weren’t there six months ago in Rotherham.”
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