Cian Prendergast is on a pathway to become a senior international back-rower thanks to a thirds coach in Newbridge College who converted him from a back to a forward.
The 21-year-old from Kildare has made a huge impact since joining the Connacht academy just a year and a half ago and has chalked up 16 appearances for Andy Friend’s side in the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup.
The former Irish U-20, who can also play second-row, was upgraded to a professional contract earlier his year.
He only really took up rugby when he went to Newbridge College and fancied himself as an out-half or centre until thirds coach Eoin Walsh suggested a move to the forwards when Prendergast, who’s now 6ft 5in and weighs 112kg, had a growth spurt.
“I played a game there, played half-decent and ended up getting called up to the senior firsts and I’ve been a forward ever since, and got lucky enough to get into representative sides, and now I’m here,” he says.
He made his debut off the bench against Edinburgh in October last year and his Champions Cup bow away to Racing 92, but it was in the latter half of the season that he really burst through.
“It’s the beauty of this place, opportunities can come out of nowhere really,” he says. “Like, last year I never thought I was going to play. Around March, April, I never thought I was going to get picked.
“I had played the odd game before Christmas because of Covid stuff and injuries, and all of a sudden then there was an opportunity in a Rainbow Cup game and I just like to think I put my best foot forward and tried to keep doing that, to keep delivering.”
The most immediate priority is Leicester Tigers on Sunday as they try to build on their impressive 36-9 winning start to the Champions Cup against Stade Francais, and Prendergast knows they are up against it.
“It’s a tough place to go, not only physically but mentally as well and you have to be up for the challenge every time you go into a contact. You can’t half-ass it as you are going to come off second best then.
“It’s the beauty of European rugby. These are the games you really want to play. We really want to test ourselves and get a win really.”