Friday 23 August 2019

'What we try to do is help other guys look good' - Andrew Conway putting team first in quest to impress

Munster flyer eager to stake his claim but warns against trying to do too much as an individual

Fully focused: Andrew Conway and team-mate Cian Healy arrive for Ireland training at Carton. Photo: Sportsfile
Fully focused: Andrew Conway and team-mate Cian Healy arrive for Ireland training at Carton. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Andrew Conway knows all about the importance of not allowing an opportunity in an Ireland jersey to pass him by.

After all, the last time he started an international, Conway scored a hat-trick as he served up a timely reminder of his devastating finishing ability - albeit against the USA.

Tomorrow's opponents, Italy, may also be a weak outfit, particularly with the second-string side that they have selected, but nevertheless, the window of opportunity from now until Japan is rapidly narrowing.

As much as several fringe players will be desperate to impress, anyone who is seen to be deviating from the game-plan will damage their chances of making the plane.

That's certainly the feeling around the squad as players look to strike the right balance between catching the eye with moments of quality and carrying out their own role to the exact detail.

Conway is one of those players who is right on the edge of making the squad, but he has been in and around the camp long enough to realise what is the best approach in terms of impressing Joe Schmidt.

Performance

Scoring another hat-trick will certainly be welcome, yet the 28-year-old is seeking a more rounded overall performance, which is in keeping with his mature outlook.

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"Yeah, it is," Conway admitted, when asked if it would be difficult not to try be a hero and come up with a miracle play tomorrow.

"But the message coming from the group, and I know from having been in this environment for such a long time, putting the team first is what is going to make the individual look good.

"Making the guy next to you look good by your actions is going to benefit the team and you in turn - it's just a circle.

"That's always been the vibe in here and what we try to do is help other guys look good.

"If I am chasing a box-kick, I'll make the kicker look good and if I catch it, vice-versa. Nothing has really changed in that regard."

In his earlier days, Conway's reputation was mainly built around creating those individual moments of magic, and while he is still very much capable of producing something out of nothing, it is his reliability that makes him such a valuable asset to Schmidt.

Yesterday, Andy Farrell acknowledged that certain players wouldn't be human if they weren't thinking that tomorrow could be their last chance to put up their hand for selection, so it is safe to assume that many are on edge.

In Conway's case, however, he is fully confident in his own ability and has worked hard on his mental approach, which has ensured that those kind of negative thoughts are kept at bay.

"I can only speak for myself, but it hasn't really entered my mind that it could be my last shot," the versatile back-three player maintained.

"You're thinking of the performance you want to put in and if I put in the performance I want to put in, then it won't be my last shot.

"That is kind of the mindset I prefer to go with. I train my mind in the mental practice that I would be doing for that to be the subconscious and conscious thoughts that I am working with.

"So, that hasn't entered my mind from my point of view."

Competition in the back-three is set to hot up even further with Mike Haley in line for his debut off the bench against the Azzurri.

Haley was somewhat of a surprise inclusion in the extended squad, but Schmidt clearly sees something in him as the Kiwi encouraged the England-born full-back to move to Ireland from Sale Sharks last summer.

That said, Conway is unquestionably further along the line than Haley, but he is glad to see his Munster team-mate get a chance on the international stage.

"I'm delighted for him. He has worked really, really hard in pre-season. He has worked really hard ever since he came to Ireland this time last year.

"It's brilliant that he is in and is going to get an opportunity. We would always be slagging him about being English but his granny is from Tralee. He qualifies through that.

"It will be a special day for his family. He has got a young kid who is over and his girlfriend is over, so hopefully he gets on the pitch and he can celebrate after."

It remains to be seen if further players will be cut from the extended squad before next week's trip to Portugal and even though Conway is unlikely to be dropped, he is not naive enough to think that it won't happen if he doesn't deliver the goods against Italy.

He has, however, invariably come up with the goods and boasting a 100 per cent winning record in the 12 caps that he has won to date is a pretty good indication of just how reliable a performer he is.

"It does make you realise that you need to be putting your best foot forward in every training session, every gym session - every opportunity is one that needs to be taken," Conway added.

"We are the lucky ones that get to put on the jersey this weekend and we don't take that for granted."

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