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Conan: We planned to be the best


Ireland and Leinster’s Jack Conan

Ireland and Leinster’s Jack Conan

Ireland and Leinster’s Jack Conan

Everyone can get in the right mental cage to tangle with the All Blacks.

The real psychological stretch comes in reaching that height in the shadows of history, recalibrating for the United States at The Aviva Stadium this Saturday evening (KO6.30, RTé2).

Unsurprisingly, Joe Schmidt set the terms of engagement nice and early.

"He started off the week by saying that this isn't just a chance to relax after such a big occasion that was beating the All Blacks at home," said Jack Conan.

"It's an opportunity for other lads, who are getting a chance this weekend, to show their frustrations at not playing in the last few weeks and to make sure they're the lads bringing the energy and driving this week on."

In many ways, it is time for payback as many of those who will play against the USA have been sacrificing themselves for the greater cause in recent weeks.

"At the end of the day, you have to put your ego to one side and want the team to do well rather than your individual self."

It can't be easy, Conan was envious of seeing CJ Stander wearing the shirt he so badly wants.

"You take it on the chin," he said

"Yeah, it's disappointing not to be involved, but you have to add to the lads around you."

It was then Conan opened the door, ever-so-slightly, to the real belief that exists inside Camp Carton.

"We spoke early in the year, during the Six Nations, about how we could be the best team in the world," he revealed.

"One of the challenges that was laid down was that even the lads that weren't involved - the bibs, as we call them - that we were bringing another level, another intensity.

"They're constantly testing the lads that are getting the chance, instead of having 15 or 20 lads pissed off that they aren't playing.

"They're adding to it," he stated.

"They're bringing a new intensity. They're bringing line-speed in 'D'.

"They're on the ball when it comes to attack, are sharp and all the drills are spot on.

"So, the starting team need to be better and better collectively as the campaign grows.

"That is the sign of a good team that, even when you are frustrated, you still work hard for each other to push the lads around you to be better."

The struggle for time in green comes down to a choice between two or three men for each number.

If not properly managed, this could lead to mini-splits in the camp where self-interest overrides all else.

"I suppose, in this environment, there are no rivals. There is competition," explained Conan.

"There are competitors within the squad. We're all competing against each other in the back-row.

"Everyone wants to build and add to one another.

"There's no rivalry here, there's competition - 100 per cent. It's about making the team better.

"The collective is more important than the individual."