Tuesday 25 June 2019

'I just need to make sure that I am putting my hand up'

Bray playmaker is keen to show Connacht management team he's primed for run-in

Steve Crosbie. Picture: Sportsfile
Steve Crosbie. Picture: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Jack Carty reassumed the No 10 duties from Craig Ronaldson in Round 16 of the Guinness PRO14, last Saturday, when Connacht dismissed the challenge of Benetton Rugby at Stadio Monigo.

And with Steve Crosbie and Andrew Deegan very capable deputies, there is plenty of strength in depth in the out-half position for the first time in a long time.

Crosbie (25) has recovered from a meniscus injury to his knee before Christmas, and now he is back in contention for the business end of the season.

And it promises much for the 2015-'16 PRO12 champions, who are on the brink of a Challenge Cup semi-final, with Aviva Premiership giants Gloucester standing in their way, albeit this time in the welcome confines of the Sportsground, not Kingsholm.

But first and foremost their fitness must be in check, and the former Leinster and Munster out-half seems to have that on point, at the right time.

"I did miss an important part of the year. I just have got to get back into it now and give it everything I can with the last few games coming up," says Crosbie.

"There is a big block of games ahead after the break. I just need to make sure I am putting my hand up and training well. That's all I can do.

"It's great to see Craig putting more pressure on Jack. And that puts more pressure on me and Andrew Deegan as well. There is good stock here at the moment.

"And there is good intensity at training as a result. There is good niggle. We get on well and we just need to push each other.

"It's a competitive environment which is what every coach wants."

Even though he returns at an opportune time for many, the ex-St Gerard's student knows he should have had more game-time in a big season for Connacht. And over six weeks after he hurt his knee, Crosbie is thrilled with how his rehab went.

"The knee feels good. I had no setbacks during rehab and got back a week earlier than expected," says Crosbie.

"When I was out it was very much time off my feet for the first couple of weeks. And then it was about a lot of stability work. Then when I started running I just had metres under my belt. After that it's about getting back into the skills and through your first pitch session.

"You are not even watching footage of yourself, I was just watching a lot of rugby and a lot of things you would have done differently, habits and that.

"It's tough when you are injured but the extra bit of homework, watching footage, and trying to get back into the mix as quickly as possible makes it worth it."

Pat Lam brought Crosbie to Connacht last season when they were suffering a crisis of numbers at out-half.

Scenario It's a different scenario this time around, and Crosbie explains how Kieran Keane's game-plan differs for the player wearing ten.

"You are demanding more from the players around you. You make the call early on in the move. But you are demanding more from your centres to organise what's outside you as well," says Crosbie.

"It's making sure that everybody can see the space and then call the right play at the right time, in the heat of the moment.

"Pat made you do that but he would have had specific players in specific positions on the pitch for it."

Lam and John Muldoon were the masterminds behind Connacht drive for a PRO12 title in 2016. And as the legendary Connacht captain looks set to retire, Crosbie says the Challenge Cup was always a target for 2018.

"With the announcement of Mul's retirement that is an added incentive. But that was definitely a target for us at the start of the season," adds Crosbie.

"We would have liked a lot more success out of the PRO14 but there was a lot of nearly wins. We seem to be going very well in Europe, and we have momentum going into it now.

"It will be a packed Sportsground against Gloucester and hopefully that will be our 16th man on the pitch, with the crowd at our backs."

Crosbie attended St Gerard's College in Bray where he played alongside future Ireland international and Leinster back-row Jack Conan.

Crosbie actually captained that team, and he went on go through the ranks in the Leinster academy, before a short stint in the senior team, and then he went to New Zealand after injury. When he returned Crosbie swapped between Munster and Connacht for short-term stints, before he settled in Galway for 2017-'18.

He has made six appearances for the province this season, and having once contemplated retirement after his shoulder problem at Leinster, he is thrilled to be playing rugby at such a high level.

He wants to push on again through 2018, and he enjoys being able to step outside his comfort zone and impart his knowledge on the future talent around Connacht.

"I am affiliated to Old Belvedere in Dublin. But we are also given ambassadorship roles throughout the club scene in Connacht," he adds.

"I was designated with Portumna. I went out there a few weeks ago to do a coaching session and it was great. Got great reward out of it.

"It's nice to get some coaching in as well. It's nice to see different perspectives and you can take one or two things away from the pitch every time."

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