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07th Oct 2020

“I had a bit of imposter syndrome, eating beside Cian Healy or Johnny Sexton” – Caelan Doris

Patrick McCarry

Caelan Doris

“They love their gym!”

This time last year, Caelan Doris had 18 Leinster senior caps to his name and was looking on from afar as Ireland faced into another uphill battle at a World Cup.

12 months on and he is a go-to selection despite being part of a highly competitive Leinster back row batch. He has made two Test appearances for Ireland and is on-course to feature in the Guinness Six Nations fixtures against Italy and France.

Doris, along with Leinster teammate Ryan Baird and Munster’s Shane Daly, has also been nominated for the Nevin Spence award (for Young Player of the Year) at the upcoming Rugby Players Ireland Awards on October 17. The 22-year-old spoke, today, of his nomination honour, Leinster’s culture of hard work and two of the back-row stars he most looks up to.

“Kieran Read has been someone who, for the last 10 years or so, I’ve watched and admired,” he says. “It’s the balance of the power game with good feet, agility, off-loads and ball skills. That’s something I want to improve on and the model I want to go for.”

“Jamie Heaslip was obviously unbelievable for Ireland, over the years,” Doris adds. “He’s someone like Read, who has that balance between the power game, feet and agility, and ball skills as well. He’s someone I would have watched closely and who I would have learned a good bit off. Unfortunately, we didn’t have too much time together at Leinster. Got a few training sessions in together. He’s a special player.”

One thing that all of Heaslip’s peers would have remarked upon was his work ethic and his eagerness to embrace the extras and one-percenters to try and improve his fitness, lifestyle, diet and all-round game.

A couple of years ago, Tadhg Furlong told us, “It’s absolutely crazy. I walked into the gym at around quarter to eight this morning and he was just after finishing a session, having done his mobility and switch-on work for the pitch.

“The work-rate he has off the pitch, in getting his body ready right, and his little skills sessions, just shows what type of man he is and the type of leader he is for the team.”

Heaslip was forced to hang up his boots in 2018, just as Doris was breaking into the senior squad. The mantle of gym-hog has now been passed on, but to a couple of the senior squad members.

“There would be a bit of that [lads arriving early to the gym]. Guys like Andrew Porter and Cian Healy love their gym.

“The culture in Leinster is to go the extra mile and do the extra bit you need to do. There’s always a lot of guys in the gym, getting their pre-hab and rehab done, and keeping on top of their bodies.”

Andrew Porter and Cian Healy pictured ahead of an Ireland rugby captains run at the Aviva Stadium in 2018. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Josh van der Flier recently recalled the nerves that beset him when he was first called up from the academy to train with the senior squad. Doris can’t recall the specifics of his first training session, but does remember what it was like to be in and around the players he had grown up watching, and supporting.

“I remember those first few days of being in the building with them, as an academy player. It was surreal in a way. I had a bit of imposter syndrome, eating beside Cian Healy or Johnny Sexton, guys I’d been watching for 10 or 15 years and suddenly right there with them.

“That stayed for a couple of weeks until you suddenly realise they’re all down-to-earth guys and you are fans of them because they are good at rugby, and not because they were aliens, or anything like that!”


  • Andrew Conway (Munster)
  • John Cooney (Ulster)
  • James Lowe (Leinster)
  • Garry Ringrose (Leinster)


  • Ryan Baird (Leinster)
  • Shane Daly (Munster)
  • Caelan Doris (Leinster)


  • Linda Djougang (Leinster)
  • Edel McMahon (Wasps)
  • Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps)
Louise Galvin and Caelan Doris helped announce the nominees for the 2020 Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards. Celebrating the achievements of Irish players both on and off the field, the Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards will be broadcast on Virgin Media Two on Saturday, October 17 after the Heineken Champions Cup Final. (Credit: INPHO)

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