Wednesday 21 November 2018

Jack Conan: Scarlets loss made us feel like we had gone back years

Jack Conan says there are ‘no excuses’ for Leinster’s loss to Scarlets, insisting they must not let their standards slip. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack Conan says there are ‘no excuses’ for Leinster’s loss to Scarlets, insisting they must not let their standards slip. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster didn't cash in on ambition last season by trading in excuses.

They are a worthless currency and the club are not going to start fishing around in their pockets now looking for its loose change.

Six points from two opening trips to Wales in defence of their league title ahead of a bankable home tie against the Dragons this weekend would represent decent business to most people.

Particularly with the predictably changing cast of characters, as Leo Cullen's men tentatively transition towards the pivotal early challenges in Europe next month.

Not for Leinster though. Their insatiable, impatient appetite disavows any sense of latitude for failure, regardless of context.

Which is why, when presented with the convenient escape clause that Leinster's 23-21 Scarlets slip last weekend might have been prompted by the perennial difficulties of integrating new squad members, Jack Conan seeks to trash transition talk.

"To be honest with you, that's probably the mindset of a smaller club," the Ireland international back-row puffs.

"That's not a good enough excuse here, to say, 'ah, I haven't played in a few months. I was this. I was that'.

"We walked off the pitch after losing and it felt like we had gone back a few years to where we were losing semi-finals.

"It didn't feel like the first game of the year. It felt like as important as any other game.

"It was a massive loss and the lads were hugely disheartened, considering the position we were in at half-time.

"Yeah, lads were rusty and it showed. But that is no excuse for us. We have to be better.

"It is a tough place to be, going over to Wales two weeks in-a-row and losing to probably one of our biggest rivals.

"We're pretty harsh on ourselves. We have to be. We want standards to be high and to drive people and to be better than we were.

"It is not exactly the most comfortable place on a Monday morning after a loss. We're critical of each other and what we did wrong and we're trying to be tough to be kind.

"You've got to take it on the chin and put your hand up. If you did make a mistake, you've got to learn from it.

"Hopefully, we will be bringing that to training. To get better at those small margins at which we were off at the weekend."

It will begin with individual responsibility; Conan eventually emerged at Leinster partly due to the misfortune of other rivals; now, behind him, stand poised a similar clutch of eager rivals, spearheaded by Caelan Doris and Max Deegan.

Collective strength driven by individual rivalry.

"Obviously Caelan coming through, he had a fantastic under-20s campaign last year as captain.

"He's 21-year-old, he's already been capped for Leinster. He started last week, he's definitely one for the future, he's building nicely, in training he works hard, he's willing to learn.

"Look, we're surrounded by talent. There's no back-row in the squad that you go 'oh, you're not good enough'.

"Everyone is here for a reason because they're of the standard of Leinster rugby. I'm looking forward to fighting it out with him.

"I don't think there's any givens in the squad. Lads are going to be given opportunities so I think the second you take for granted where you are is the moment you're going to be overtaken by someone else.

"It's taken me long enough to get here and I definitely won't be taking a step back and letting lads get ahead of me."

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