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Conway: I knew Joe selected lads who had been there and done that

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Andrew Conway speaks with Andy Farrell and Conor Murray during training ahead of today’s Six Nations opener. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Andrew Conway speaks with Andy Farrell and Conor Murray during training ahead of today’s Six Nations opener. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Andrew Conway speaks with Andy Farrell and Conor Murray during training ahead of today’s Six Nations opener. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

From the outside looking in, team selections in the latter part of Joe Schmidt's tenure were something of a foregone conclusion, depending on fitness.

If you had delivered in a big game for the Kiwi, the chances were, you would be selected, regardless of your form or that of your nearest rival.

There were of course exceptions, but, by and large, that is how things operated under Schmidt right up until last year's latest dismal World Cup quarter-final exit.

There were a few players in that squad who had justifiable claims to have featured more often, particularly in the defeat to the All Blacks, and Andrew Conway was definitely near the top of that list.

Having scored a try in all three games he featured in and generally played well, Conway was overlooked for the crucial match-day 23.

Hindsight is great, but it must have been tough for players knowing that as much as they forced the issue, they were always up against it.

So, was that how Conway felt?

"Yeah, but I kinda did know," the Munster winger says.

"I'd been in the squad long enough under Joe to know how he selected and knowing the lads who had been there and done that before, unless they were injured or they were playing really, really poorly and I was playing… he had no choice other than to pick me.

"It was always going to be a tough ask to get in when the lads are fit. I don't think that's coming from a negative thought process. That was just a reality and it proved to be right.

"I don't necessarily think it was the wrong decision, it was just the way he approached selection."

Conway is mature enough to not look back with any regrets but deep down, there must still be a part of him that wonders what might have been.

"Yeah, like the World Cup is obviously the biggest stage there is really and to come out of there feeling pretty pleased with my performances was great," he maintains.

"I just had a really good pre-season leading into it and was in a great mental and physical space. I set myself up nicely to put my best foot forward and luckily enough when I got the opportunities I played well and then wasn't involved in the last game and it was a tough game to be involved in.

"So, I think once you put a body of work into something and you're really happy with the process of it, you can be content with the outcome because you're comfortable with it, if you get what I mean."

Although any lingering frustrations about what happened in Japan will not be completely erased against Scotland this evening, Conway can at least turn the page when he gets an overdue first Six Nations start.

Considering the reputation Conway came out of school with, this feels like a long time coming.

"It does," he agrees.

"It definitely feels like I've been chipping away for a fair amount of time. I knew that was going to be the case.

"I had to stay consistent, stay persistent and just keep going by sticking to my processes and my work-rate and the stuff you're doing off the pitch to get better and eventually it will come around."

Still only 28, Conway can make up for lost time and now that he has finally earned a starting spot in the Ireland team, he won't be giving it up without a fight.

He is relishing the relative freedom that Stephen Larkham has afforded him in Munster, which should tie in well with how Mike Catt wants his Ireland attack to operate.

"Do you know what, I thought the exact same thing when I first came in," Conway smiles.

"It was a great feeling because, not that it was a big huge difference, but they're very similar in terms of if you want to play heads-up rugby, you want to play to the space, you want to be able to hold your feet and be able to get there.

"You don't want to be overly anxious in attack, you want to be a bit calm, mentally sharp and be able to move to the space.

"It's definitely a good comparison. I'm sure if the two boys sat down they'd have very similar thought processes on attacking rugby."

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