Leinster star Caelan Doris admits it will be a funny feeling to go up against Ireland team-mates he has spent so much time with this year in Saturday’s “massive” clash with Munster at the Aviva Stadium.
The Irish squad were together for some four months on their World Cup crusade, but now it’s back to domestic rivalries as Test colleagues go head-to-head in Saturday evening’s BKT URC contest in Dublin.
"It’s a funny one, having been in camp with the guys for so long,” said the No 8.
“The last time I saw them was in camp and now we’re seeing them on the pitch in the Aviva.
"So it’s a funny one from that perspective, but all friendships and all camaraderie will be put aside for the couple of hours, for sure, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in."
Reflecting on the challenge posed by league champions Munster, Doris said: "They have certainly improved a lot over the last season and a half.
"They’ve got quality players throughout and they are really gelling as a team over the last while.
"You can see it’s coming from how they are training at a very high intensity, really improving their fitness and believing in their fitness, playing with quick ball and they have a lot of threats throughout.
"Defensively, they are very challenging to play against as well with the amount of breakdown threats they have throughout.
"It’s always a massive game when we play them whether it’s down there or in the Aviva.”
Like the rest of the Irish squad, Doris has been faced with putting the heartbreaking World Cup quarter-final loss to New Zealand behind him and moving on.
"We had three weeks off, which was nice because it was a bit of a roller coaster of emotions afterwards," said the 36-cap County Mayo man.
"Obviously there was a massive, massive disappointment and a few very low days.
"After maybe a week or so you are looking forward to getting back into a bit of training and seeing lads again and since we’ve come back in it’s been good fun, being back with everyone and getting stuck in.”
Doris made his first appearance since the World Cup in last weekend’s 54-5 victory over the Scarlets, a result that took Leinster to the top of the BKT URC table.
“It was good fun. I enjoyed it,” said the 25-year-old.
“It was nice to be back at a close-to-full RDS and nice being back in blue. It was my first time at the RDS since January 1.
“We were happy with the scoreline. There are always areas to improve on, but it was a good starting point.”
For Leinster, it’s a new era with long-serving fly-half and skipper Johnny Sexton having retired after the World Cup. So how are they facing up to life after Johnny, particularly on the leadership front?
“It’s a bit of a shared effort,” said Doris. “We've got our co-captains, Garry (Ringrose) and James (Ryan), who definitely lead by actions, but are also great talkers and hit the nail on the head when a point needs to be made.
“So you’ve got those two leading the charge and there’s quite a big group underneath them as well who are very experienced and willing to share. So there’s plenty of knowledge in the room and plenty of people to share the load.
“It’s not just one person who is going to step up and try and be a Johnny. He is obviously a very unique character and did it for a long time. There’s an openness and a willingness from everyone to give constructive feedback and take it.”
Looking ahead, Doris added: “I’m excited to get stuck back in, with the run of games we have now leading up to Christmas - Munster in the Aviva, Connacht another inter-pro, into Europe, back to Munster. It’s pretty easy to get up for these games.
“You’ve also got the individual desire to improve. I feel I’ve a lot more in me as a player."