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Thursday 14 November 2019

Jack's ready to rumble

Big guns Conan and Coetzee set to go head-to-head in showdown at Aviva

Leinster’s Jack Conan tackles Hadleigh Parkes of Scarlets during the PRO14 match in Wales
Leinster’s Jack Conan tackles Hadleigh Parkes of Scarlets during the PRO14 match in Wales

There has been a lot of talk about Marcell Coetzee.

There is the circumference of those South African biceps, the power on the ball and immovable presence over it.

Don't rule out the multi-purpose loose froward being right there in the faces of Irishmen in a World Cup quarter-final on October 20th in Tokyo Stadium, even though his last international cap was back in 2015.

The injury-riddled forward is showing signs of his halcyon days for the first time in a long time.

"I'm very passionate about playing for the Boks," he said in an interview with South Africa Rugby Mag.

"Once you've had a taste of playing in the green and gold, it's like an addiction

Chance

"The one thing I can say is that if I should ever get the call-up, I'd jump at the chance.

"I'm still so passionate about the Springbok jersey.

"All I can do is ensure that I'm performing well enough to be ready if the opportunity comes around again.'

He has stayed true to that promise this season, putting minutes and matches together to stand out for Ulster.

The original problem was how it had taken three seasons to put his best foot forward, playing just four times in his first season, once last season.

There has been a transformation in the last seven months, making 18 matches and Ulster announcing a three-year contract extension last month.

Should Coetzee pack down at number eight, he will encounter a like-minded individual, in that Jack Conan is playing for a seat on a different flight to Japan.

"I played the most amount of minutes I had ever played in the Six Nations, which was obviously a good thing," said Conan, in an honest appraisal of his current form.

"Just making sure I was fitting in and showing Joe (Schmidt) that I could do the job and add to the team, bringing energy and getting on the ball and bringing line speed."

For those on the fringes, like Conan, these last two months of the season can launch or derail plans for the World Cup.

It is just as well that the big games are coming thick and fast, beginning with Ulster at the Avvia on Saturday.

"I think it makes it easier to slot back in when there is so much at stake," says Conan.

Of course, there are always motivating factors at play, chief among them moving ahead of Toulouse as the most successful club in this competition.

"After the success of last year in Leinster, we are just looking at getting better, repeating and doing it again and being the first team ever to win five Heineken Cups."

Moving on quickly from Ireland's inconsistent Six Nations is paramount.

"There is no time to come in and feel bad for yourself about everything that has happened outside of these walls in the last few months.

"We turn the page so quickly and narrow the focus back to Leinster and back to what we do best," he said.

"We know that these lads are going to come down the road on Saturday afternoon and they are going to be the best version of themselves because they are up against the European champions."

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