Ex-Ireland and Munster flanker Alan Quinlan joined OTB AM on Monday to talk about the form of Caelan Doris and his prospects in the Irish jersey.
Doris has been one of the many standout players for Leinster in their unbeaten run of 25 games this season.
He was named the Next-Gen Star of the Season, for his dominant performances during the PRO 14.
Across all competitions this year, the 22-year-old has made 180 tackles in 18 appearances, missing just six.
He has also made 524 metres in his 151 carries, scoring four tries and beating 37 defenders.
Such has been his season thus far that Quinlan cannot see Irish head coach Andy Farrell leaving him out.
“I think Doris is maybe too good to leave out of the Irish squad at the moment, so that leaves a conundrum for Andy Farrell,” Quinlan said.
“He looks really comfortable, dominant, confident, [he] wants the ball, he’s winning lineouts, he’s winning turnovers, his all-round game is fantastic.
“He has been brilliant the last few weeks.”
Doris in for O'Mahony?
Doris will be up against two of Ireland’s most consistent stalwarts in CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony for a starting spot.
Quinlan thinks he knows who will be left out in favour of the young man from Co. Mayo.
“Does he play Peter O’Mahony or Caelan Doris, because I think at the moment you can’t leave Stander out of the Irish team,” Quinlan said.
“[Stander] has got such an incredible work rate for a player, and he’s so effective in turning the ball over as well, he’s too good to leave out of the Irish team at the moment.
“Someone like Doris is more of a footballer and he will put that bit of deception in some of his carries.
“I think that’s the position now where he’s going to probably end up playing a lot more, he’s going to try and take on Peter O’Mahony for the Irish jersey.
“He may get picked ahead of him, he got selected last year ahead of him, and he’s the form number six in Ireland at the moment.”
Caelan Doris of Leinster is tackled by Ian Madigan of Ulster during the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Six or Eight?
Although he has played most of his rugby up to this point at number eight, Quinlan thinks that Doris’s versatility could see him used in either position.
“Obviously [Doris] has played most of his rugby as an eight, but he’s now playing as a six, which is not a problem,” Quinlan said.
“Number eights can play six easily.
“Sixes physically can [play at eight], they have the physical attributes, but playing number eight you have to think your way through the game a little bit more.
“Doris is a very intelligent rugby player and he is someone that could easily slip back and be a very dominant number eight and play very well there.
“He is a great lineout option and his ability at the breakdown is very good; he’s improving all the time.
“I think he has that versatility. He doesn’t have to nail himself down to being just a number six.”
Work-rate and versatility
Quinlan highlighted Doris’ work rate against Ulster in the PRO 14 final as a key reason why he cannot be left out of Farrell’s squad, regardless of the number on his back.
“I think the try he scored the other day, he was involved in a carry before that and a cleanout,” Quinlan said.
“He just gets back up off the ground, you can see him clapping the hands, and he just can see a gap and space and his footwork is really good.
“I’m not sure he has to say, ‘well I can only play a number six now because that’s where I want to play for Ireland and that’s where I’m going to excel'."
With so many loose forwards in good form heading into the resumption of the Six Nations and the Autumn test series, Quinlan sees it as a positive headache for the selectors.
“It’s a good position for Andy Farrell to be in when you have certain players in good form coming in ahead of November,” Quinlan said.