Rugby life is far from a drag for Craig Casey. These past months he has been trying to, not slow down but calm down, become a little bit more hushed and serene and harmonious with all of the imperatives and demands going on around him.
The scrumhalf is not becoming leisurely but stepping up after almost exactly a year since he made his Irish debut. Since then the work has increased and his high tempo and buzzing style remains one of the enjoyments for Munster and Ireland fans.
But life in Irish camp and coach feedback is taking the frantic out of Casey’s game without removing the fizz. It’s a delicate procedure. He has started to appreciate the nuanced contours of international rugby without killing the spark that allows him to respect the boundaries.
“Yeah, I think I’ve improved in all areas really,” he says of the last year. “I think I’ve become a lot calmer on the field, a lot less frantic, just clearer in my mind in what I want to do with decisions and stuff like that. But still playing with some bit of pace.
“I think that’s one of the biggest learning curves I had, just trying to be calm in decisions. Not everything needs to be at a million miles an hour.”
Casey earned his first senior international call-up in January 2021, when Irish coach Andy Farrell announced the Ireland squad for the 2021 Six Nations. He made his senior debut against Italy on February 27th, 2021, when he came on as a replacement for Jamison Gibson-Park in Ireland’s 48-10 away win.
Against the USA last summer he started the game and played for an hour, the other cameos coming from being sprung from the bench against Japan and Argentina. Coming to Irish camp now, he says is more a place of innovation and learning and less a spectacle of rookie wonderment.
“I was just thinking that the other day actually,” he says. “It’s been just a year and the first time you are coming up into camp it is ‘oh God’. You are overawed with everything.
“Then obviously driving up now it is just like a place you absolutely love to be in. Like you said, getting a bit more comfortable but I don’t think you can be too comfortable in an Irish camp with the competition around so . . . ”
It has required some patience on his behalf. Hanging around waiting for game time or injury or bad form to strike down Gibson-Park or Conor Murray is a waiting game with a touch of predator involved.
But at least he is in the right place, the correct waiting room to strike if they looked in any way vulnerable. He might easily believe that this weekend against Italy there could be a place for him.
“Like I said about being patient, you can’t be too eager to do miracle things,” says Casey. “It all has to be within the team’s set-up.
“Obviously, when you see something go for it, but you can’t be too eager to show your best hand because you’ll end up making mistakes and looking too frantic. I mean, everyday I am trying to put the pressure on the two lads. They are two class nines, in fairness to them.
“I have been learning off Mur for the last four years in Munster, trying to push him every day and obviously overcome him. Then, Jamo, I have only been working with over the last year. But like you said, I definitely want to push them on and try to get more caps.”
Caseys’ standing is that his style is different to both Murray and Gibson-Park. From the bench, Farrell would be introducing an entirely different player to the one that has just come off. Casey will merrily take a cut of the defence quicker than both without having Murray’s experience and physique or Gibson-Park’s wispy speed around the pitch.
“That calmness, making my mind clear in the decisions I’m going to be making but actually at pace as well,” he says. “It’s trying to find the balance between playing very, very quick and then being calm and making those right decisions.
“That’s the soft skill,” adds the hot-wired 22-year-old, sensibly using less haste to speed ahead.