Rugby

Caelan Doris urged to be himself after seeking advice over ‘pretty cool honour’

The 25-year-old will captain the reigning Six Nations champions against Italy.

Caelan Doris will captain Ireland against Italy
Caelan Doris will captain Ireland against Italy Caelan Doris will captain Ireland against Italy (Adam Davy/PA)

Caelan Doris was urged to be himself by former Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton after being handed the “pretty cool honour” of captaining his country against Italy.

Leinster back-rower Doris will lead the reigning Grand Slam champions into Sunday afternoon’s Guinness Six Nations match in Dublin following a calf injury to Peter O’Mahony.

The 25-year-old sought advice from Sexton, who retired after last year’s World Cup, and current international team-mates O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and James Ryan, having received news of his temporary appointment from head coach Andy Farrell on Tuesday.

“Delight was the initial feeling but also nerves and excitement and finding my feet in the new role,” said Doris.

“There’s been a bit of mixture of all that but it’s a pretty cool honour to have for the week.

“I was even on the phone to Johnny there during the week.

“There are a few key figures for us who aren’t involved this week but I’ve been leaning on them big time.

Stand-in Ireland skipper Caelan Doris, not pictured, sought advice from former captain Johnny Sexton
Stand-in Ireland skipper Caelan Doris, not pictured, sought advice from former captain Johnny Sexton Stand-in Ireland skipper Caelan Doris, not pictured, sought advice from former captain Johnny Sexton (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The main one (piece of advice) has been ‘be yourself’.

“The tendency is seeing Pete and seeing Johnny doing such a good job in how they do it and thinking, ‘how can I emulate that?’

“But their message has just been ‘be yourself’ – being authentic is the best way to lead and finding my own way to do it, which is challenging at times but it’s been good.”

Doris has developed into a genuine world-class talent since making his international debut in the opening match of the Farrell era in 2020.

He only captained his province for the first time during a 22-21 loss to Ulster on New Year’s Day but was selected as Ireland stand-in skipper ahead of lock Ryan, who regularly deputised in the role for Sexton.

“Stuart Lancaster (former Leinster coach) would have tried to push the leadership bit out of me, and the same with Faz (Farrell) in camp over the last number of years,” said Doris.

“I’ve been in the leadership group for a couple of years, but it’s an area I do want to develop and want to continue to grow, whether I’m in the group or in this role this week.

“It does cause a bit of stress and there’s more responsibilities that come with it but it’s definitely rewarding too.

Former Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured, encouraged Caelan Doris to take on greater leadership responsibility
Former Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured, encouraged Caelan Doris to take on greater leadership responsibility Former Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured, encouraged Caelan Doris to take on greater leadership responsibility (David Davies/PA)

“Just talking to Faz this morning he basically said to do it in your own way and that you don’t need to have these big speeches prepped.”

Doris has switched from number eight to openside flanker for the Azzurri’s visit to the Aviva Stadium, with Farrell making six personnel changes to the starting XV which began last week’s thumping 38-17 win away to France.

Munster pair Craig Casey and Jack Crowley will partner each other in the half-back positions, while 22-year-old lock Joe McCarthy continues following his eye-catching outing in Marseille.

“It’s a pretty exciting team, a few new combinations,” said Doris.

“Craig starting at nine, who’s been class for Munster over the last while and I’m delighted to see him get an opportunity.

“I think lads have been putting their hands up. Big Joe goes again in the second row, who’s been class; Crowler at 10, who is another leader and has been leading us well and has been doing the same at Munster.

“There’s enough experience there and enough old heads but there’s some excitement as well with some of the younger guys.

“The challenge this week is to back up last week’s performance with an even better one across all areas. It’s a pretty exciting prospect.”