Tuesday 26 September 2017

No stopping Conan's march as he repays Schmidt's faith

Jack Conan has as many tries for Ireland as he has games. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack Conan has as many tries for Ireland as he has games. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

At 13 his carries were second only to Dan Leavy, his yardage was behind only Keith Earls, and his 12 tackles were bettered only by Niall Scannell. He conceded no penalties.

Oh, there were two tries as well; one more than in New Jersey the previous Saturday. So Jack Conan has as many tries for Ireland as he has games.

That's the kind of return that gets you noticed. He will be 25 in a few weeks; peak time for a lot of lads playing such an attritional sport. With nine tries for Leinster from 20 games this season, it is inescapable that Jamie Heaslip is no longer an automatic choice.

"I can't worry about Jamie," Conan says. "I'm just worrying about doing my best every opportunity I get.

"Joe (Schmidt) has put a bit of faith in me, picking me for this tour, selecting me for the last two Tests, so I just want to repay him and show I'm up to this standard.

Push

"I definitely feel the last few games that I've put my hand up and shown I can play at this level and I'm ready to push on."

Because of Heaslip's presence for Leinster and Ireland, though, it's like this is all just beginning to unfold for Conan.

"I'm happy enough. It's only my third cap, a third start, so for me it's still a new experience. And I still have a lot to prove when I go out there and play. I feel like I improved this week from last week, and that's all I'm looking to do - get better week-in, week-out.

"I know we put a lot of points on them, but they showed their ability to bounce back. Their ability to keep the ball in play did stress us in the latter stages, and it was very admirable how they went about it. It'll be another tough test in Tokyo.

"It's harder this week because you're playing the same team back-to-back. You have to improve on the good things, then the things you weren't good at, they need to be better.

"The pressure is definitely on again, and Joe drives the standards as well as the players.

" I feel I've done well this season and I want to finish on a high with a win, not a loss."

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