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Damian de Allende wasn't signed by Munster for his his tryscoring ability, although the World Cup winner admitted it was a great feeling to be able to cross for his first in a Munster shirt last week versus Zebre.

De Allende is six-months in Limerick at this stage, with nine games under his belt from the tail-end of last season into the current campaign.

He's proven popular with the fans, particularly for his dirty work; being physical in defence, holding up ball-carriers and slowing down opposition rucks.

And while he's worn 12 on his back for all of his eight starts, there's been in-game switching with Rory Scannell throughout to allow for Scannell's kicking threat as a second first-receiver.

Most recently though, De Allende started inside Dan Goggin against Zebre, allowing him to focus on the first-centre role, and speaking at the launch of the Heineken Champions Cup, he says it's a position he feels more comfortable executing.

"I was speaking to coach Steve (Larkham) and coach Johann (Van Graan) when I was playing more outside centre - with Rory inside - and I think for me it's just a bit different.

"I got a good understanding and a good feel for the game, but I just didn't feel like I was very involved, so I felt like I was playing decent rugby but felt like I probably wasn't getting involved or making enough tackles or getting my hands on the ball enough at 13, and I was more watching what's going on on the field, and just reacting and being decisive," he says.

"This past week was very nice to play inside centre again so obviously I got a good feel for the game, it's a lot closer to you at 12 than it is at 13. Sometimes at 13 I felt I was just away from everything a bit, like the collisions and the involvement in the game around ruck time, but other than that it's been great."

"It's been very easy for me to settle into the Munster squad because I know how our coach Johann works and I worked with him at the Springboks and I understand his mindset."

If you've followed Damian de Allende on Instagram, you'd get a fair indication of how the change in climates has been effecting him. While I've never been to Cape Town in December, I've personally spent 29 Decembers in Limerick, and can make a fair estimation that they're probably quite different to each other.

He'll be the first to admit that the weather has been a challenge, but thankfully that hasn't shown itself on the pitch. He's come through rainy away trips to both Rodney Parade and Scotstoun; the litmus test of whether a player "fancies it" or not in the PRO14.

"It's a lot different to what I'm used to!" he laughs.

"I think for the past two or three months I haven't worn shorts to training, it's just been long pants. It's been very cold! Sometimes I'm even training with two jackets on, I'm really not used to it!

"A lot of people told me before I came it gets very cold, I thought they were trying to overexaggerate and scare me a bit, but they were telling the truth, it gets very cold."

The aforementioned rainy trip to Glasgow is one that would stand out to fans for a De Allende highlight. The World Cup winner was one of the more experienced heads in a team filled with academy players and prospects in their early senior careers. When Craig Casey was hit on the ground, it was De Allende who came straight in to back up the scrum half.

With the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup dominating the calendar since mid-October, he's had to be that experienced head for a large part of his Munster career to date, but has seen a young team thrive, winning seven games from seven.

"This is my first season here and experiencing first hand the way the guys from the academy have stood up and taken accountability and stuck their hand up, and wanted to be that guy that's going to take Munster forward.

"It's very important that they do it now when the Irish guys are away, to give everyone so much confidence, so much belief with what we do and what we want to achieve in the long run. I think it makes the Irish guys coming back, their jobs so much easier, coming back to Munster and fitting into the system again," he says.

Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup opener against Harlequins at Thomond Park will be Munster's first big European game without the backing of a crowd often credited as being a 16th man.

It'll also be kicking off around 20 minutes after the conclusion of the All-Ireland hurling final between Limerick and Waterford (barring extra time). De Allende says he's yet to buy his Limerick jersey, but his use of 'we' to describe the county didn't go unnoticed.

"No, not yet but I think if we win I'll jump on the bandwagon!

"Obviously I haven't experienced Limerick properly because of the lockdown and things not being open, but I hope I can experience it properly like the boys have explained to me.

"They say they would love for me to see Thomond Park on a Heineken Cup day, sold out, with the flags flying and people singing. I would like to see that energy, but not just in Thomond Park, but around Limerick. Hopefully soon it will get to that point where I can experience the proper culture of Limerick and Munster", he says.

Listen to LIVE commentary of Munster v Harlequins this Sunday on Off the Ball, with Neil Treacy joined by Keith Wood at Thomond Park for the 5.30pm kickoff.

Team of Us. Everyone In.

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Damian De Allende Harlequins Heineken Champions Cup Limerick Hurling Munster Rugby

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