Craig Casey insists he isn’t fazed by the wealth of scrum-half competition among the Ireland ranks, after making his debut for Andy Farrell’s men in their 48-10 Round 3 win over Italy.
Having watched on from the sidelines as the 2018 Grand Slam winners narrowly lost out to so-far unbeaten France in Round 2, the 21-year-old made an instant impact at the Stadio Olimpico.
Casey looked dynamic as he made 14 metres from three carries and contributed 21 passes during his 17 minutes on the field in Rome, helping Ireland to an emphatic first win of the 2021 Championship that gathered real momentum ahead of a showdown with Scotland on March 14.
And despite facing stiff competition from the likes of Jamison Gibson-Park and fellow Munster star Conor Murray for a place in the XV, Casey is determined to keep adding to his cap collection.
“I don’t want to sit back and be happy with being third choice,” said Casey, who was part of the successful Ireland Under-20 squad that won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019. “I want to push on now.
“When you’ve got players of Murr’s calibre and Jamo’s calibre as well, it’s obviously tough to break in, but it’s definitely my goal to be playing games for Ireland.”
Ireland’s victory in the Italian capital also saw a first Test appearance for Leinster lock Ryan Baird, who Casey knows well from the pair’s time together in the Irish youth ranks.
Having completed the journey to the senior stage alongside Baird, Casey is confident they can both kick on and replicate their age-group success at the highest level.
He added: “Bairdo’s absolutely unreal. He’s a freak athlete, he’s ran over 10 metres per second, which is terrifying for someone so big! He has all the capability to push on now and go even further.
“We’re both pretty motivated fellas anyway. It’s pretty cool that we played against each other at Under-18s, with each other at Under-18s, with each other at Unders-20s, and that we’ve now made our Ireland debuts on the same day.”