THIS SUNDAY is exactly a year since Craig Casey made his Irish debut against Italy and he hopes to add number five the day before, with the same opposition in Dublin for another six-nation clash.
The 22-year-old Casey came off the bench to play briskly in Rome a year ago when he won his first test match, three more times since Ireland, including his first start against the US last summer.
Jamieson Gibson-Park and Connor Murray have hampered his chances of furthering with Ireland, but Casey is right in the fight for a place in Andy Farrell’s 23rd round this weekend against the Italians.
These days in the camp of Ireland Limerick feels much more at home and also feels that he has developed as a player.
“I think I’ve really improved in all areas,” Casey says. “I think I’ve become a lot calmer on the field, a lot less crazy, just clearer in my head what I want to do with decisions and things like that, but I’m still playing at a certain pace.
“I think it’s one of the biggest learning curves I’ve had, just trying to be calm in making decisions. Not everything has to be at a million miles per hour. ”
Not taking a direct part in Ireland’s first two six-nation games against Wales and France, Casey was released back to Munster last weekend for a good start to his province’s home win over Edinburgh.
It was a transition back to a red T-shirt that made him feel comfortable.
“It’s definitely not easy to go back and mix the two systems and get back to speed with what Munster wants to do this week and the like,” Casey explains.
“But the guys in Münster were great, they wrote to me when we came back on Sunday, sent out a game plan, sheets and the like, plays.
Casey celebrates with Simon Zeb of Munster.
Source: Ben Brady / INPHO
“So it was easy to fit in. The training went well. You’re obviously trying to incorporate some of the things you’ve learned in camp into your game, but also into the games of the guys around you so you can fit into them.
“So it was good, I really enjoyed coming back to play a bit. Always want to play as many games as possible, so it was great to come back and we won. It didn’t help that we played in the storm, but it was still good. “
At one point of Munster’s victory Casey with one hand threw a reverse unload at Calvin Nash, just managed to pick up the ball before it was sent to touch, but it reduces that moment of silky skill.
“I think I’m working on it, but I don’t fall in and the like. You just supported yourself, and Calvin called for that, so it was good. ”
Now Casey is hoping to get another chance in the green jersey as he seeks to put pressure on the established pair of Gibson Park and Murray.
“I know the workouts are going well for me,” he says. “I am happy with the way I trained, but obviously there are still areas that need to be worked on.
“When you go home to Münster, like last week, I needed to perform and try to do my best for this week. So hope I did that.
“I mean, every day I try to put pressure on two guys. Justice to them is two ninth grade.
“I studied at Moore for the last four years in Münster, trying to push him every day and obviously beat him.
“Back then, Jamo, I only worked with him last year, but it was also great to work with him. But I definitely want to push them and try to get more caps ”.