Saturday 16 December 2017

Jack's target is World Cup

Conan not just there to make up the numbers

Jack Conan pictured during his debut for Ireland against Scotland last Saturday.
Jack Conan pictured during his debut for Ireland against Scotland last Saturday.

When Jack Conan's name was called out by Joe Schmidt to make his international debut against Scotland, one thought came crashing through.

"'Jeez, I'm actually going to have to play here,'" he said.

"I was happy enough with how I went - a few mistakes but, all in all, I can't complain."

Conan found all the clichés to be true.

Everything happens a step faster at the highest level, most notably when Scotland scrum-half Henry Pygros knifed between him and Mike Ross.

"Your window of opportunity of thinking and movement is that much shorter, so if you're off a step you're going to miss it," he said, in an overall reflection.

"It's right there in front of you and every moment counts.

"So you really have to be on the ball and you can't have a momentary lapse at all or play is going to pass you by, so I think in a sense it's just that bit quicker than provincial rugby.

"For the first few moments it took me a bit to get into it and it made me realise I had to be this bit earlier here and this bit faster.

"Once that happened I felt I settled into the game a bit better."

This was best reflected in the way he got an offload away to Chris Henry in the lead-up to Sean Cronin's try from a maul.

The 23-year-old felt comfortable enough to execute the high-risk play in the heat of contact.


The achievement of making his international debut brings with it an automatic increase in confidence just to know Joe Schmidt rates him.

"I know that I was there for a reason," he imparted.

"I know that there's so much talent - an embarrassment of riches - in the back row in this country, so to get selected there was a great honour.

"I realise that Joe hasn't put me there for no reason, so obviously I came here trying to get to the World Cup.

"In saying that, this is my first week playing international so I wasn't looking past today or this week in training."

The logistics of life inside Camp Ireland mean Conan is closer than he could have imagined to the World Cup.

Dominic Ryan and Robbie Diack missed out. CJ Stander is not quite Ireland-qualified. Rhys Ruddock never made it due to injury. Tommy O'Donnell has fallen to it.

Suddenly, the back row rations are meagre enough. The below-par impact of Dan Tuohy against Scotland may encourage Schmidt to keep Iain Henderson primarily as a second row.

That would narrow the choices down to six back rowers for five positions with one more injury set to make Conan a serious option.

"I'm the least experienced and you've got Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy, Seanie (O'Brien), Peter O'Mahony and Jamie (Heaslip) all ahead of me.

"I'm not going to worry about them," he said, in the manner of a man who knows what he wants.

"I'm just going to focus on myself and train as hard as I can and play as well as I can."

That's all he can do.

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