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Rónan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan have both started off the 2021-22 season on fire with fantastic performances in both the blue of Leinster and the green of Ireland.
The two 23-year-old hookers have had ample game time to show off their qualities this season and it seems that they are of a similar mould.
Dan Sheehan’s fantastic try (his fourth of the season for Leinster) against Connacht where he stepped Mack Hansen to send himself into a pocket of clear air with the try line in sight is reminiscent of what Kelleher brings to the game for both club and country.
Sheehan’s very presence in the wide channel to receive the ball draws similarities to how his fellow hooker plays and offers a glimpse into the future of Irish rugby.
Leinster assistant coach Stuart Lancaster is well aware of the depth of talent the side has at their disposal in the central front row position.
“There’s some very good, athletic forwards in the Leinster pack now,” Lancaster said. “Ronan [Kelleher] and Dan [Sheehan] are two players who epitomise what we want from our forwards – you know, good ball handlers, physical, abrasive, fit and they can play hooker but they can play multiple positional roles in phased attack and phased defence.”
Kelleher has often been seen in the same spot on a rugby pitch as Sheehan was on Friday, and with 29 carries to his name in just 164 minutes for Ireland during the Autumn Nations Series last month (14 against New Zealand), is clearly an attacking threat for any side he lines out for.
Sheehan, who only made his debut for Leinster last season, only has 313 minutes under his belt in competitive fixtures for the Pro 14 champions but has impressive attacking stats too – 187 metres from 58 carries among them.
With only 55 minutes to his name in green, Sheehan has looked the part, making 53 metres from a mere 11 carries in that time – an average of 4.82 metres per carry.
On top of this, their stats for the traditional roles of a hooker are impressive too – Kelleher missed only one lineout throw against both New Zealand and Argentina from 15 while Sheehan was perfect from 10 in the Autumn Internationals.
Their multi-faceted talents fall in line with what the province’s forwards coach Robin McBryde said about the ‘modern-day forward’ last month.
The competitiveness and experience that Leinster and Ireland veteran Sean Cronin and James Tracy has helped the two young hookers grow into the players they are today.
“It’s great to have [Kelleher and Sheehan] and they’ve got two very good hookers in, you know, James Tracy and Sean Cronin to learn from as well so it’s not like those two have just fallen away – they’re as competitive as the two lads.”
Lancaster is thrilled to see both Kelleher and Sheehan in such good form at the moments after watching their journey for several years but insists there is still work to be done.
“It’s great to see both come through – I’ve watched them both come from fourth-choice and being on the periphery and frustrated they’re not getting opportunities to force their way through to become first and second choice, in whatever order you pick them.
“There’s a lot of hard work gone into what they’ve achieved and a lot of credit must go to the two lads in particular but also to James and Sean for pushing them so hard as well.
“It’s a good position to be in, they’re both exciting players, but they’ve both got a lot to learn still and, you know, we’ll keep their feet on the ground for sure.”