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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 23 November, 2017
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Tom McCartney has his eyes on a different green jersey after committing future to Connacht

The excellent Connacht hooker will qualify to play for Ireland next year.

Image: Inpho/Billy Stickland

AFTER COMMITTING HIS long-term future to Connacht, hooker Tom McCartney wants to represent Ireland once he becomes eligible next November.

The 31-year-old has already spoken with Joe Schmidt regarding his new contract and the ex-Blues forward says he is keen to help Connacht’s young squad to further success in the coming years.

As one of the in-form hookers in Ireland at the moment, there is a good chance that McCartney will right in the mix in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and he says he is now comfortable speaking about his international intentions with his future in the west secured.

“When I first signed I was a little bit reluctant to talk about it really because it was such a long way away. Anything could happen and it is starting to get a little bit closer now,” said McCartney, who is in his third season with Pat Lam’s side.

“Jeez, if it happens I’d love the opportunity to put on the jersey, but at the same time there is guys there you can see they have done a pretty awesome job of late.

“I suppose one of the things is hopefully the more players that you have there pushing for the position, at the end of the day all across the team, that’s got to hopefully make the team and Ireland better in the long run.

“Yeah I talk to Joe (Schmidt) a little bit. Nothing recently, but I’ve known Joe for quite a while as well. Nothing too specific, just a bit of interest if I was looking to stay or move on. All I can do is play as well as I can for Connacht and if I’m good enough then hopefully he picks me.

“I’m not qualified yet and I’ll keep my head down and do everything I can with Connacht and if the opportunities come then I’d love them.”

Coming hot on the heel of news that Lam will be leaving Connacht for Bristol at the end of the season, McCartney, who played under Lam in Auckland, admitted he was shocked to hear of his coach’s departure, but that the potential of the squad meant he was delighted to stay on.

The powerful front-row said he had no other offers ‘on paper’ but that he didn’t want to leave the Pro12 champions in any event.

“It was a bit of a shock for a lot of us, but at the end of the day, this squad that we’ve got here all the young players, just everything that has been around the club, everything Pat’s instilled, all the systems are in place, I think going forward we are in a really strong place.

“For me, obviously I’ve really enjoyed working with Pat and I’ve known him for a long time as well. I’ll miss him but I think we have still got a really strong future here at the club.

Tom McCartney warms up before the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“My heart was always wanting to stay at Connacht. At the end of the day I was just really happy to get the deal done. Obviously three year is a long time and it’s great to have that and to really just put everything into the club for the next three years.

“It has lived up to all my expectations when I first signed. It has been a great journey and has been really special to be involved with Connacht for the last three years. I am really enjoying time, my family is enjoying it. I’m enjoying my rugby and just an opportunity to carry that on. I think we’ve got the core there of a really good young team.

Meanwhile, Lam has dismissed suggestions that the controversy surrounding their win over Wasps has taken away from a special victory for the province.

Connacht’s won the game thanks to Naulia Dawai’s late try and Jack Carty’s touchline conversion, but since then competition organisers, EPCR, have confirmed that the try should not have been allowed because Connacht kicked the ball into touch after the 80 minutes had elapsed, a move they first clarified with the referee Mathieu Raynal.

Wasps yesterday  labeled the referee’s lack of knowledge of the laws of the game as “hugely disappointing” but Lam insisted it did not take away from one of Connacht’s standout European wins.

“We just ask the question and we got the answer,” said Lam. “No, not at all (it hasn’t taken from the win). As everyone says, we play what’s in front of us.”
“It is really nothing to do with us, absolutely nothing to do with us. We asked the question, we got the answer. If the ref said ‘no, you can’t kick the ball out’, then we would tap it and we will go for the corner.
“That decision didn’t win us the game,” said Lam.

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