Caelan Doris has labelled his first taste of Guinness Six Nations action as ‘bizarre’ but ‘cool’.
The back-rower made his Ireland debut in their Championship opener against Scotland in Dublin on February 1, but suffered a concussion after just four minutes to cut his maiden international appearance short.
The precocious 22-year-old bounced back in Round 3, though, featuring off the bench against England as Andy Farrell’s side succumbed to a 24-12 defeat at Twickenham.
And with the suspension of the Championship owing to the COVID-19 pandemic giving him plenty of time to reflect, Doris says he has mixed memories of his first Guinness Six Nations experience.
“It was a bizarre first Six Nations to be involved in I suppose but being able to look back now, it was incredibly cool to be involved,” he told the IRFU website.
“From my first selection in the training camp for Portugal, to being told by Andy [head coach Andy Farrell] that I was starting in that first game against Scotland.
“Four minutes wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for – there were mixed emotions after the game.
“I was obviously delighted to get my first cap and I had really enjoyed the build-up during the week, but to have my debut cut short after just four minutes was bitterly disappointing.
“My parents were in the dressing room after the game for when I was getting my first cap but it was just so disappointing the way the game ended for me.
“I was so happy we won and delighted for everyone but you’re mixing that with your own personal disappointment – it was a strange feeling.”
Doris represents one of Ireland’s most exciting young talents, bursting onto the scene at Leinster this season in a side who remained undefeated when the Guinness PRO14 was indefinitely suspended.
Rugby has long been in the blood for Doris, who grew up in the Lacken, a hamlet in county Mayo in the west of Ireland, before following in the footsteps of his father, Chris, in attending Dublin’s Blackrock College.
And it was there where he started to establish his burgeoning reputation, winning the Leinster Senior Schools competition as a mere 15-year-old in a star-studded side that included the likes of Nick Timoney, Joey Carbery, Hugo Keenan, Jeremy Loughman and Conor Oliver.
It’s been a dazzling rise for a player with seemingly no shortage of international opportunities ahead of him, and Doris is relishing his newly-acquired taste for donning an Ireland shirt.
“I’m sure those experiences will be beneficial for me going forward,” he added.
“I learned so much over the course of the couple of weeks and that Scotland week in particular was very special.
“To receive lots of nice message from family and friends was a pretty cool feeling and to then experience a home Test week is something I’ll never forget.
“Opportunities are more fleeting at the top level so you’ve really got to be ready to take them when they come.
“It’s definitely addictive, that feeling of pulling on the green jersey to represent your country.
“It’s a special feeling and I really hope I get the opportunity to do it again soon.”