| 19°C Dublin

'He’s such a big physical specimen. He was my cue. 'OK, I can’t really carry on'’

Close

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has always been impressed by the province's Lions hero Jack Conan. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has always been impressed by the province's Lions hero Jack Conan. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has always been impressed by the province's Lions hero Jack Conan. Photo: Sportsfile

Leo Cullen was the least surprised witness to the enormous impact his Wicklow compatriot Jack Conan had on this summer’s Lions tour.

What was for some folk a forgettable exercise for the benefit of inflated egos was unforgettable for the No 8, who seized upon his surprise selection in the opening Test and was pre-eminent thereafter.

In many ways he encapsulated the clash of titans; he played formidable, mostly mistake-free rugby with ferocious intensity and yet many observers reckoned he might have been capable of playing a little bit more football, were such an idea to enter the heads of his coaches.

Ultimately, the beastly overcame beauty.

And, as his club side prepare to open their campaign with a friendly against Harlequins this Friday night without their rested star, Cullen reminisced about the Bray man’s breakthrough, when he saw both sides of Conan.

“He’s such a talented footballer, Jack,” said Cullen, who was keen to reflect that his charge’s trajectory has deviated wildly at times.

“He’s had some real niggly injuries at different stages, at very bad times for him, so he never quite pushed on in terms of the international stage.

“We see it all the time here, what a quality footballer Jack is. I remember when he was younger, an academy player here, coming through, and I was still playing at the time, and he hit me in training and I was like, ‘I think I need to stop playing rugby now’.

“He’s such a big physical specimen. He was my cue. ‘OK, I can’t really carry on!’ He’s such a quality footballer, so skilful for his size so it was great to see him do so well. Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw were excellent as well.”

Conor O’Brien, Jamison Gibson-Park, Max Deegan and Rhys Ruddock are all in line to make their seasonal bow for the province against the side whose enterprise and exuberance lit up the English Premiership last spring.

Rugby Newsletter

Subscribe to 'The Collision' for a weekly update from Rugby Correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor and the best writing from our expert team Issued every Friday morning

This field is required

However, there was depressing news for Dave Kearney whose chances of building on a fine season have crumpled after an ankle injury will rule him out for “a few months”, according to the province.


Most Watched





Privacy