Tuesday 23 July 2019

Conan fuelled by last season's 'disappointment'

Conan’s quest: Jack Conan is likely to be in direct competition against one of his main rivals for a World Cup spot, Jordi Murphy, when Leinster face Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
Conan’s quest: Jack Conan is likely to be in direct competition against one of his main rivals for a World Cup spot, Jordi Murphy, when Leinster face Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Jack Conan might have tripled the number of minutes he has played in the Six Nations, but the nature of the beast is that it is never enough.

The 26-year-old enhanced his reputation, which was timely as he looks to ensure that he is on the plane to Japan later this year.

Come Saturday evening at a sold-out Aviva Stadium, he will get another chance to lay down a marker against one of his main rivals for a World Cup place - Jordi Murphy.

It was Murphy who kept Conan out of the Leinster team for the big European games in the title run-in last season before he upped sticks and headed north.

With so much competition in the Leinster back-row, it might well have been Conan who decided to leave but he remains Leo Cullen's first-choice No 8, with Max Deegan and Caelan Doris biting at his heels.

"I wasn't playing great rugby at the time, I had just come back from an injury, so I was lucky to be involved in that semi-final and the final," Conan reflected.

"I probably underperformed at times. My body wasn't where it needed to be against the Ospreys and then I finally got back for the Connacht game and that was obviously a poor performance all round.

"I don't think anyone would have looked at that and said, 'Oh, he deserves to be in there'.

"It was disappointing not to feature in those big games as much as I would have liked but I think I rectified that by the end of the season, getting the start for the semi and the final and then obviously going on to win the PRO14.

Class

"Jordi, to be fair, is a top performer and he was class in those big games for us, especially in the quarter, semi and final of Europe.

"We were looking at clubs earlier and I saw that I wasn't involved and it brought it all back to me, how disappointing it is when you are not in the position that you want to be in and you are watching your mates go out there and you are not given the opportunity.

"So I think I have an extra point to prove this weekend because I didn't feature in a lot of those big games in the latter part of last year."

A strong finish to the season with Leinster would set Conan up nicely to build on the 164 minutes he played in the Six Nations as attentions will turn to Ireland's World Cup warm-up games in August as players will get a final chance to stake their claim ahead of the tournament.

"I have taken the opportunities that were given to me," Conan maintained.

"I probably could have carried a bit more in that Scotland game but it was quite stop-start in that second half and difficult to get into it. I don't think I did myself any disfavours.

"You want to be nailing down a spot. I wouldn't say I am hard done by. I'm not in the frame of mind to have pity on myself to think, 'Aw, I should be playing more'.

"Obviously I want to play more, everyone wants to play more. It's about taking those opportunities when they come and keeping faith.

"Always keep trying to improve in those aspects that the coaches ask of you and to still play the game that got you there in the first place."

By the same token, Murphy will be eager to get one over on his former club and alongside Marcell Coetzee, Conan knows that he will be facing a strong back-row.

"It is a massive challenge for us up against Jordi who has such an in-depth knowledge of the culture and the structures here," he added.

"He will be well aware of how we want to play the game and how we want to implement our game-plan.

"That in itself is a massive challenge and trying to negate his huge influence, especially early on so we can get into our flow."

Irish Independent

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