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Ireland under-20s’ Alex Kendellen first captained a team when he wore the armband for Presentation Brothers College team in fifth year.
He would watch videos of Kieran Read to improve his game and attempt to mould his own playstyle based on the New Zealander.
Kendellen captained his school team in the Senior Cup and sixth year, which was cut short by the pandemic.
The captaincy is “a huge honour for [Kendellen] and [his] family back home.”
However, it is not just the captaincy he can benefit from at the Ireland U20’s camp.
Defence coach and former Munster and Ireland forward Denis Leamy has taken the U20 captain under his wing at camp.
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩 🧠💚
With 165 Ireland caps between them, we love it when old friends return 🙌
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 14, 2021
Kendellen describes him as an “exceptional” coach who wants to mould the Munster prospect into the best possible version of himself.
“Denis has been through it all, I suppose. Firstly, he’s been extremely good to me. Back-row aspects of the pitch – be it ruck, be it tackle, be it poach – he’s taken me under his wing and just showed me that aspect of the game. He kind of wants what he can offer me, I suppose, and what player he can mould me into.”
Richie Murphy is another established figure in Irish rugby that the young number eight can learn from.
The Ireland U20s head coach was heavily involved in player development at Leinster for several years.
He has overseen the development of talents such as 99-cap international fly-half Johnny Sexton and Leinster legend Fergus McFadden.
“First time I actually met him was two or three weeks ago, but he has really brought the squad together,” Kendellen said.
“It’s great to have such a senior coach, I suppose, whose been up at that level and can bring his knowledge down to us younger lads and guide us from there, I suppose.”
Those involved with Munster have also lent their words to Kendellen ahead of the U20 Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Captain Kendellen explained that he was welcomed with open arms at all levels in the Munster setup.
Players such as the now-retired Billy Holland offered advice to the 20-year-old after he received the news that he was going to captain the national U20 side.
He added that he was “thrown into the deep end” at Munster after he left school.
To be fair, the academy lads, they brought me in with open arms. Extremely good to me, like the seniors were. Learning off the back-rows in Munster, the competition is crazy down there, so yeah. Really thrown into the deep end after school but that’s the best way I learned, if I was to tell you – to just get thrown in and kind of sink or swim I suppose.”
From watching YouTube videos of Kieran Read to leading his country out this Saturday against Scotland, Alex Kendellen has come a long way.
Cheering him on will be several experienced figures who have helped him get to this moment and those that will only help him get further and further in the sport.