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Connacht's Heffernan delighted with switch to hooker

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Connacht play out of Galway in the middle of a race track for dogs

Connacht play out of Galway in the middle of a race track for dogs

SPORTSFILE

Connacht play out of Galway in the middle of a race track for dogs

Promising Connacht forward Dave Heffernan said he is thrilled that he decided to switch from the back-row to hooker.

And while he has made a great start to the new season at the heart of the Connacht front-row, the 23-year old believes he has huge room for improvement.

Heffernan only converted from his original back-row station to hooker 18 months ago. Before then he had never put his head in at the sharp end of a scrum, but he admits he is beginning to relish the role.

Facing Leinster's all-Irish capped front-row of Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Mike Ross was a huge challenge for the Ballina native, but dominating them even after Cian Healy's introduction has given Heffernan a massive lift.

"We knew we were up for a big, big challenge. They have obviously a whole international front-row there and with guys like Cian Healy there it is always going to be a challenge. I think as a whole we were pretty happy after the first couple of scrums we did quite well. We got a bit of ball off them so it was good.

"It has improved a lot, that is one thing I am probably happy with this year. Scrummaging has been probably quite good. Obviously Leinster dominated us for the first part of the game, but we changed tactics a bit and we got a hold of them. But Glasgow will be a huge challenge as well," said Heffernan who made his positional switch from the back-row on the advice of former Connacht backs coach Billy Millard.

Injuries to Jason Harris-Wright and Sean Henry meant Heffernan was Connacht's only fit senior hooker in the last couple of weeks, but he is satisfied with his progress in general, he says. However, he is still putting in long hours with forwards coach Dan McFarland and he thinks his lineout throwing is the main aspect of his play that needs to sharpen up.

"I have to do a lot of extra. Obviously the scrummaging and throwing is completely new to me so I am putting a lot of work into that. My throwing is still not perfect and the same with the scrums, still learning a lot so I need to keep improving and keep making those improvements in training each week.

"The throwing under pressure, performing consistently, that is the toughest thing. I actually enjoy the scrummaging a lot more than I thought I would initially but the throwing can be extremely frustrating.

"But on the whole it has been good. I have been reasonably happy with my progress so far and I just need to keep going," said the former Ireland U-20 player.

Connacht will put their winning start on the line when they travel to Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors on Friday evening.

Glasgow have also won their opening three matches with a 22-20 home victory over Leinster and two impressive away wins in Wales, defeating Cardiff 33-12 and last weekend ousting the Dragons 33-13.

Two of Connacht's wins have been at home in the Sportsground, defeating the Dragons and Leinster, while recording a 14-13 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield two weeks ago.

Irish Independent