Friday 22 September 2017

Conway ticking the boxes to gain extra edge

Andrew Conway cools down in the heat of Japan during Ireland’s victory last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Andrew Conway cools down in the heat of Japan during Ireland’s victory last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Brendan Fanning in Tokyo

If the theme of this trip largely has been one of letting the kids loose, and watching them grow, then there are a handful who don't fit into that category. And Andrew Conway would be one of them.

At 25 he is in bus pass territory in this group, but he is not weighed down with caps. One, to be exact, before coming out here. For a man who made his Leinster debut as an 18-year-old he might have been expected to be further along in his career. But it took the shift south to Munster in the summer of 2013 to give him direction.

"It probably happened a bit too quick for me," he says. "This is 'Captain Hindsight' now, but it was probably a small bit too quick. When I made my debut at 18 I probably thought it would go bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. And whenever it didn't, I dunno, I wasn't able to hone in on why.

Consistently

"It's a tough one, because it's 25 before you start playing international rugby and consistently well for your province. But in the few years gone by, I've been playing quite well for Munster and we weren't going well at the time. It's a weird one, but I'm at where I'm at now, and hoping to kick on."

Given the contest for places around the back three that's not easy. It helps, however, that Conway has settled on a way of living his professional life that gives him the best shot at achieving his goals. Having to bide his time at Munster allowed the plan to evolve.

"It made me reflect deeply on what I needed to do, and go over where I get my edge and probably put in a bit more mental preparation for things. It's about having a holistic thought process about the game, not just rocking up in training and playing a match.

"For me, I've now made it, it sounds weird, but my whole life from morning to night. You'd be writing stuff down, little affirmations that you can go back to, reflecting on your day in terms of what you could do better.

"Planning your training week out, I had never done that. And I'm sure a lot of lads at a high level don't do that. But I figure that's my best way to approach things.

"It makes me more focused through the week, I have my boxes to tick and once I hit them, train hard and do my extras physically, and I'm doing all that stuff on the side mentally, that maybe other guys aren't doing, it just gives me an edge to perform. At the end of the day it's all about rocking up on Saturday and leaving it out there."

He had a mixed afternoon in Shizuoka, the low point being binned for what was deemed to be a high tackle, five metres from the Ireland line.

The speed with which Joe Schmidt went in to bat for him afterwards suggested he wouldn't face an inquisition on that score. However, the coach will have picked him up on a few other inaccuracies, which in this company can come back to haunt you.

What he has learned from Munster, though, is that losing one skirmish shouldn't deter you from showing up for the next one.

And he has the mental strength now to get on with it.

"If you're winning more battles than your opponent, you're doing your job for the team," he says.

"Hopefully I've got eight or nine more years of international rugby. If I keep going and finish off with that and keep going and finding ways to get edges then happy days, the last few days will have been worth it."

Irish Independent

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