RORY O’LOUGHLIN HAS vowed to keep learning and to absorb as much information from those around him, in order to get as many minutes for Leinster as possible.
Intense competition for places at the eastern province has forced the 22-year-old to adapt his game and become more versatile.
“I remember in pre-season just hoping to get my first cap and then building on that,” O’Loughlin says. ”The Munster match was my 10th game of the season, out of what 14 or 15, so I’m delighted with how it has gone.
“Obviously in every game there is stuff you need to work on and you constantly need to get better. But they’re happy with how I’m going.
“As well as that, I’m on both the wing and at centre and I wouldn’t have been as used to playing on the wing.”
“When I’ve been playing there, there have been small things that I’ve kind of been getting wrong but, Isa [Nacewa], with the experience he has, he has been helping me.
“Others, like Adam Byrne, have been helping me too. I’m slowly getting used to it.”
At such a pivotal stage in his development, O’Loughlin faces a battle with Garry Ringrose for the number 13 jersey, with Leinster hoping the rivalry will push the pair to the next level.
“We’re constantly improving each other.
“It’s good because we’re both kind of learning together, but it is difficult once the European games come around, when Garry goes in at 13.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an awkward relationship but it just means that I’m going have to become more adaptable in the positions I can play.
“And then when I do get the chance to play at 13 to show I can compete as best I can, which is going to make us both better at the end of the day.”
Despite Ringrose being a year younger than O’Loughlin, the former St Michael’s man feels his overall game can improve by learning from the Ireland international.
“He’s very composed in attack.
“He reads the game very well, he is good at organising forwards and getting the shape in play to get the ball to where he wants to get it, whereas that’s where I’ve struggled.
“At the start of the season, I found it quite difficult bossing players that are a good bit older than me, that played internationally.
“You have to forget about all that and realise that you’re all on the same team, you’re all senior players and they’re going to listen to you. They respect you.”
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