Tuesday 17 September 2019

Leinster's Jack Conan admits 'unacceptable standards' must be discarded

Jack Conan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack Conan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Difficult to pick holes in Leinster right now but, as surely as they have unlocked so many complicated combinations this season, you can be assured they know their limitations as well as anyone else.

While they remain the envy of so many - Munster leading the way with admiring, if jealous, glances this week - even Leo Cullen's men are afflicted by a case of the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

Last Saturday's triumph was justifiably hailed as a victory for all in UCD HQ, from coaches and players - young and old, healthy or injured - to those in tracksuits or pin-striped suits.

But although the final run-in has swept Leinster towards the summit once more, and on the verge of a unique trophy double for this island, there may be the mildest anxiety even in their moment of triumph.

While the strength of Leinster's squad has been repeatedly hailed by all - with some either coveted or already captured by their rivals - there have been minor chinks in the armour surfacing of late that may cause jitters ahead of this week's semi-final.

Twice in the last month the perceived shadow side have succumbed in humbling circumstances; first, to an historic home defeat to Italian opposition and then in embarrassing capitulation against a Connacht side who had compiled an utterly dismal season.

Last Saturday's British & Irish Cup final defeat to Ealing Trailfinders understandably disappeared under the radar but, perhaps, in the feverish race to anoint Leinster as a dominant force for the next decade, some perspective may be required.

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Thankfully, the club houses players who can do so. Let Jack Conan take over the story of how the past month has panned out for the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.

"In previous weeks, we'd massive games and then the next week we probably didn't have as much on the line when we went in and massively underperformed against teams which were up for it more than we were which is never an acceptable standard for us."

Thankfully, although the collectives may have tanked in those aforementioned games, some of the individuals have emerged unscathed; Conan has led the way even if he concedes his own high standards plunged, too.

"I was a bit disappointed not to start last week but I hadn't been performing to the point where I probably deserved to do so.

"I'd obviously had an injury in the last few weeks. That gave me a short window to get back and play and the only game that I did get to play, or start in, was the Connacht game which obviously wasn't a glowing audition for myself.

"I was disappointed considering how much I had played in the group stages and leading up to that.

"But I think you have to swallow your pride and get on with it. It's all about the collective and the team, you can't be sitting around, sulking and feeling bad for yourself."

His defiance last Saturday, when he frog-marched Teddy Thomas into touch during those compelling final moments, was a pivotal impact and he will be rewarded with a start against Munster this weekend.

Every squad member shares in the triumph but most will admit it feels better when one is central to

"It is tough because it was such a massive day in this club's history and something that was fantastic to be a part of," says Conan.

"But from what has happened in the past few weeks, nobody wants to sit in the dressing room in that stadium feeling the same way after losing to a Munster side.

"So we won't be dwelling on it for too long. We were very slowly turning the page for two days.

"There's always added emotion, added pressure when you're playing in a derby game - Munster in the RDS for the first time in a good few years as well. I think that makes it even more special.

"Every time you're playing another province, you know you're playing against someone who is potentially a step ahead of you when it comes to getting a green jersey so there's massive pressure. It's something we relish."

And they don't want to stop now.

"Obviously it's been fantastic, winning at the weekend.But when you're looking back in two or three months' time, you'd be reflecting on it in a different manner.

"'Yeah, that was a great day'. But, if we don't finish on a high it's definitely going to be tarnished in some small way."

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