Ahead of tomorrow’s BKT URC Quarter-Final against Cell C Sharks, Caelan Doris sat down for The Big Interview that features in the Official Matchday Programme. You can buy the programme on Saturday for €6 in and around Aviva Stadium.

For Leinster and Ireland, the 25-year-old has only tasted defeat once in Aviva Stadium. That came in 2020, as Leinster lost to Saracens behind closed doors in the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Finals.

With fans in attendance in the stadium, Doris has yet to taste defeat in either blue or green.

What is it about the Lansdowne Road venue that brings out the best in the EPCR Player of the Year nominee?

“There is a homely feel to the stadium”, he says. “It’s in our backyard, and I’ve played there a fair bit. Whether it’s an Ireland game for a Leinster one, the turnout is always huge, and the support is so special.”

“There is familiarity to the place, with some home comforts too. Even something like knowing the changing rooms is important. Playing in somewhere like the Aviva, allows us to fully focus on the match, as we are familiar with the settings.”

With 11 appearances to his name already this season, Doris lines out in the URC for the first time since New Year’s Day, when Leinster defeated Connacht in the RDS.

Despite an absence of league in over four months, he says the responsibility is there to build on the work done that saw Leinster enter the Play-Offs as top seeds.

“The URC has been such a squad effort this season. We’ve used over 60 players, including some Sub-Academy lads in South Africa, and the Academy players throughout the year.”

“Everyone has played their part, including all the staff. It’s been a massive collective effort to get us to this point.”

In his last four games, Doris has started in all three back row positions, but no matter the position, he sees it as an “honour” to wear the shirt.

“We’re all aware of some of the great players who have worn the shirt. We’re trying to build on that legacy and lay the foundations for future players to thrive.”

“We want to inspire the players of the future, in the same way we have been inspired by previous players.”

Doris is part of a back row unit that has some of the best strength in depth in the squad. He sees it as a pivotal reason the players continue to push each other.

“Having so many great players in training makes us all want to get better and push the standards across the board.”

“The daily competition has been fundamental to improving the standards in the back row.”

“The group has a pretty varied skill set, so we all share the workload on the field. It works pretty well that way.”

“We’re not too reliant on players doing one particular thing. Obviously, players have their strengths, but everyone is capable of doing a few different jobs, which helps.”

While memories of last Saturday’s win are strong, the focus turned quickly to this evening’s match against Cell C Sharks. Having lost to South African opposition in last year’s BKT URC Semi-Finals, the team is ready for a physical battle.

“The Sharks are incredibly abrasive”, Doris admits. “They have tremendous athletes in the forward pack, with some brilliant speed and athleticism in the backs.”

A familiar face awaits Doris pre-match, as he and his teammates will meet Noel McNamara. A former Leinster Academy Manager, McNamara is now working with the Sharks as their Attacks and Backs Coach.

“They are incredibly well coached in attack by Noel. I would have had a lot of dealings with him at underage levels and in the Academy. He knows us very well, and is a great coach.”

“The Sharks try to keep the ball alive. They are similar to Toulouse, with their offload mindset. It’ll be a big challenge!”

You can read the full interview with Caelan Doris in Saturday’s Official Matchday Programme.