Craig Casey belts out George Michael classic to the delight of Ireland teammates

Ireland's Craig Casey with his first cap after his debut game against Italy
(Image: INPHO/Tommy Dickson)

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It has been a quick rise up the rugby ranks for Munster player Casey, who is being widely tipped as the man to fill Conor Murray's boots at number nine for province and country.

He came off the bench in Rome for Jamison Gibson-Park and came off the pitch about 20 minutes later with the praise of Andy Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Gibson-Park ringing in his ears.

Sexton said after the match: "Craig Casey, I didn't know him that well obviously – I had never played with him – but his attitude is…I don't think I have ever come across anyone, it kind of reminds me what I read about Jonny Wilkinson.

"That's the only person I can relate him to. It is inspiring for the rest of the group and for someone like me, at this stage in my career, I like to be last off the pitch and I am never last off the pitch with him around. He has been brilliant.

Gibson-Park started at no 9 in the absence of Conor Murray, who hadn't recovered in time from a hamstring issue.

Both men are looking over their shoulders at the 21-year-old snapping at their heels now.

"Yeah look he's a great young lad, one of the work ethics I've seen in a young footballer…forever, probably, really," said Gibson-Park.

"I played with some good guys in New Zealand, obviously, but I don't think they were ever as dedicated as he is.

"Yeah, he's going to go a long way, there's no doubt about that." 

Ireland's Ryan Baird and Craig Casey together wearing their first caps for Ireland after the debut game
(Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)

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For Casey himself, making his Test ebut at the Stadio Olimpico was "everything I've dreamt of," he admitted.

"It makes it a lot better to get the win, so I'm delighted."

And the Wilkinson comparison by Sexton? "He said this to me a few weeks ago," Casey laughed.

"I think it's to do with obsessiveness with rugby. I'll take that compliment, yeah. Being compared to Jonny Wilkinson, I'll definitely take that." Casey wants more and more experience at this level now, despite the competition for the scrum-half role.

"Of course I want to play games for Ireland, that's the goal," he said. "I don't want to sit back and be happy with being third choice.

"I want to push on now, but when you've got players of Mur and Jamo's calibre  it's tough to break in…but I'm not going to sit back and be happy I want to push on."

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