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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Fanning keen to keep on rewarding Blues boss O'Connor for leap of faith

Darragh Fanning. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Darragh Fanning. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Andrew Trimble's journey back from international obscurity to 2014 Ireland Player of the Year is a road-map for all others.

Never give up as long as there is someone of real influence out there who hasn't given up on you.

For Trimble, that was Joe Schmidt. For Darragh Fanning, that is Matt O'Connor.

Now that the November Series has been put to bed, the superior troops will trickle back down to Leinster. This is where the savage nature of selection can be unforgiving.

On the wing, O'Connor is not as much concerned about international repatriation as he is about the match sharpness of Dave Kearney, the rehabilitation of Fergus McFadden, the niggling groin/hip of Luke Fitzgerald.

There is also the uncertainty over Rob Kearney's shoulder which could keep Zane Kirchner at full-back.

All the while, Darragh Fanning, 28, has been O'Connor's 80-minute man, playing every minute of 10 matches.

"I know whatever he goes with I will trust in that," he said.

"I have no reason to doubt Matt. He has always given me the chance. He gave me my first opportunity last year when he brought me in on a wing and a prayer and the next thing I'm here a year later.

Trust

"I know whoever he picks that I can trust it's what's best for the team.

"If I'm playing well and putting my hand up then hopefully it is me who's picked because it's a huge couple of weeks coming up."

There has been a reward for patience by O'Connor as Fanning's try-return has shot up from no tries in his first four outings to five from his last six.

"I know people were saying early on in the year that maybe I wasn't scoring enough tries," he said.

"But it wasn't a case that I was getting put in situations to score tries and was messing them up.

"They weren't coming to me but I stayed patient that they would come and that when they did I would take them."

There is nothing like a surge in game-time and tries to imbue any winger with a sense of confidence.

"Yeah, definitely I'm playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. Matt has instilled that in me by consistently picking me.

"He put me into big games a few weeks ago and I want to keep on repaying him by playing as well as I can each week."

"You definitely become comfortable in the patterns and the plays and stuff like that. I know everyone knows them, but when you're running them every week in a front-line team they're easy."

Last season, O'Connor showed faith in Fanning and he made headway: "I know earlier on in the season it was great, I got in and played a lot of games."

Then, the big boys returned and he had to settle for a bit-part involvement which whipped the legs right from under him.

"Suddenly, I was a bag-holder for the next month and it opens your eyes a bit. It's a reality check.

"You've just got to be a bit more switched on when you're in that situation that any minute someone could get injured and you could get back in the team and you need to be ready."

Leinster will have to be on all toes for the entry of The Ospreys into the RDS where the Welsh club won two Celtic League titles in 2010 and 2012.

"This weekend, with Ospreys, they're top of the League and it's going to be as physical and quick as any European game I've ever played. It's going to be huge for us.

"We might get a few of the lads back from the Irish camp which would be good, but whoever is selected everyone is gunning for this game at the weekend."

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