Thursday 18 January 2018

Saxons offer test for Conan to pass with flying colours

Jack Conan during squad training
Jack Conan during squad training
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

ALL WEEK, Jack Conan has been asking the questions and increasing his knowledge. Tonight, he gets to answer some of his own.

The Leinster starlet has been the breakout star of this season and his impressive form for the province have been rewarded with the No 8 shirt he'll wear for the Wolfhounds against the England Saxons.

He has taken every hurdle in his stride this season and remains an outside bet to play for Ireland in the Six Nations due to Jamie Heaslip's ongoing shoulder problems.

As Jordi Murphy showed last season, strong performances in Carton House will be rewarded with promotion and Conan hasn't been shy in ensuring that Joe Schmidt knows he's there.

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"Coming in I think I was the only person who hadn't been involved in any other camp before - so the onus was on me to learn the calls, learn the plays and the structures," he said.

"We were two weeks out from playing the first Six Nations game so for anyone to come down and not know, it isn't good enough. This is the Six Nations we're talking about so the onus was on me to put in the hard work to make sure I knew my drill, my job.

Homework

"So I sat and did a bit of homework, I've done a lot more writing than I've done in a few years, since I sat the Leaving Cert! So I got there in the end anyway.

"I've spoken to Joe on and off, more just kind of asking him questions. I've probably been in his ear a bit too much, asking him what this is and what that is, just so I got it right.

"I've spoken to him here and there just about how they want to play the game and how I can fit, what my role is."

Despite coming into this season with just one senior appearance to his name, Conan's confidence is a noticeable attribute as he assesses his rise.

He may be the new face in Maynooth, but he knows he is there for a reason despite some initial awe at his surroundings.

"I walked in, got a bit of gear and went up to my room. I took it out and it had my initials on the side of it and that was a bit of a, 'Oh really, I am here and I am part of the squad so far'," he recalled.

"I think everyone's equal and has the same opportunities. Coming down here I just wanted to make sure I make the most of mine.

"I suppose I wouldn't be here now if Joe didn't think I was ready in some capacity. I'm fully ready to play tomorrow. It is probably one of the biggest games of my career so far."

Irish Independent

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