A year which began with a frustrating hamstring injury which sidelined him for four months has taken a massive upward swing for newly appointed Irish U20 captain Caelan Doris.
The injury saw the promising No.8 miss Ireland’s entire U20 Six Nations campaign but just when it seemed that he might also lose the opportunity at playing at a second World Cup, everything turned in his favour.
He recovered quicker than expected, made his senior debut off the bench for Leinster in the PRO14 against Connacht and on Sunday night received a call from Irish U20 coach Noel McNamara asking him to skipper the side for the upcoming World Cup in France.
“I actually only found out last night. I was in Mayo, back home for the weekend. I was asleep in the car, my mother was driving up. I missed a few calls from Noel. I called him back when I arrived at about 11. It’s still sinking in but I’m delighted,” said Doris.
He may be from Ballina in Mayo but with parents from Dublin and having gone to Blackrock College as a boarder from first year, he came up through the ranks in Leinster and was thrilled to make his senior debut last month.
“It was class. Leo (Cullen) said to me before the game that he made his debut in the Sportsground when he was 20 - 20 years ago, the year I was born! He came on as a back-row that day as well so hopefully I won’t make the switch to second-row,” said Doris, speaking at the launch of the Irish squad in Dublin yesterday.
Head coach McNamara said that having Doris back was a boost, not least as he has lost a few players to injury who featured in the Six Nations and there are doubts about promising Munster prospect Jack O’Sullivan.
He was named in the squad yesterday but it remains to be seen if he will make the travelling party, with the squad having a run out against Japan today before leaving for France later in the week.
They face a tough opening to their campaign, taking on Six Nations champions and hosts France in Perpignan next Wednesday before meeting South Africa in Narbonne four days later. They will complete their pool programme against Georgia the following Thursday (June 7).
McNamara has had to plan without the injured Angus Curtis, Eoghan Clare, Ronan Kelleher, Sean Masterson and Peter Sullivan, but is boosted by the availability of some who missed the Six Nations.
“A few of them were unavailable to us in the Six Nations. Dan Hurley is a guy who would have played Irish Schools with me a couple of years ago. He is someone who has a physical presence, who has played AIL with Young Munster and is a guy we are very happy to have,” said McNamara.
“Tom Roche has had a great year, he’s worked really hard. Peter Sylvester has had a really good year with UCC. He’s a good playmaker and brings other people into the game. Obviously we are facing three teams that are very forward orientated. We needed to have that support in the back five and the frontrow. In the forwards Dan Sheehan is a guy who comes in off the back again of a good year at Under-20 level and AIL playing with Trinity,” he added.
McNamara confirmed that his coaching team will be completed by Paul O’Connell and Ambrose Conboy with Tom Tierney, who was involved in the Six Nations, now concentrating on his Elite Player Development role.
Ireland U20 Squad: Forwards :
Matthew Agnew (Ballymena RFC/Ulster), Jack Aungier (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Diarmuid Barron (Garryowen FC/Munster), Joe Byrne (Dublin University/Leinster), Matthew Dalton (Malone RFC/Ulster), Cormac Daly (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Jordan Duggan (Naas RFC/Leinster), Jack Dunne (Dublin University FC/Leinster), Joe Dunleavy (Malone RFC/Ulster), James French (UCC/Munster),, Aaron Hall (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster), Tom O’Toole (Banbridge RFC/Ulster), Jack O’Sullivan (UCC RFC/Munster), Charlie Ryan (UCD RFC/Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Dublin University FC/Leinster).
Harry Byrne (UCD RFC/Leinster), Conor Dean (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Dan Hurley (Garryowen FC/Munster), James Hume (Banbridge RFC/Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Hugh O’Sullivan (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Tom Roche (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Michael Silvester (Dublin University FC/Leinster), Jonny Stewart (QUB RFC/Ulster), Peter Sylvester (UCC RFC / Munster), Tommy O’Brien (UCD RFC/Leinster), James McCarthy (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)
Unavailable due to injury:
Eoghan Clarke, Angus Curtis, Ronan Kelleher, Sean Masterson, Peter Sullivan.
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