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'The Test arena is intense and you need to be emotionally right'

Andrew Conway isn’t about to start resting on his laurels as he prepares for his second Six Nations start at age 28.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ANDREW CONWAY HAD to show patience and immense resolve in order to force his way into the Ireland setup in 2017 after putting in hard, though often rapid, yards with Munster.

The wing announced his exit from Leinster months before Joe Schmidt moved down to Lansdowne Road in 2013 and it took Conway four years to play for the Kiwi again.

His international debut came off the bench in the 2017 win that denied England successive Grand Slams. Yet it took until last week for the wing to earn his first Six Nations start. This Saturday against Wales, he’ll take a second and there is no chance of him resting on his laurels.

His provincial team-mate Keith Earls is among those snapping at his heels for the 14 shirt, but the Dubliner modestly notes that the veteran is carrying ‘a grumpy knee’.

“I’m happy, but you can’t be too happy when you’re starting,” says the 28-year-old.

“You want to be putting your hand up and trying to be one of the best players on the pitch consistently. It’s great to have an opportunity to do it.”

He is asked what areas he felt he ought to improve after his first start in the Championship and he replied with a bright: ‘Every area’.

blair-kinghorn-and-andrew-conway

The economical answer wasn’t Conway being abrupt, but an offshoot of his willingness to keep making forward strides and he was open and honest enough to discuss a notable play when it appeared he was caught between the old laws and the new. Shaping to kick as Schmidt might have demanded, but then attempting to counter as befits the messaging from the Farrell regime.

That’s not necessarily how it played out in Conway’s mind. He calls an error on himself for fluffing the potential counter after attempting to pick out space to kick.

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“We could have moved it at times. The time with me and Jordan (Larmour) in the 22. I don’t think it was the wrong decision, it was just poor execution. I could have held down Huw Jones and Jordan would have gone down the line with the kick option – with the run option back inside if we do our job right.

“We want good ball. Jordan obviously likes running the ball, so I need to be giving him options. Get the ball to Jacob’s hands, he does damage. That’s what we want as a back three. It’s not always going to be perfect.

“As a first step post-World Cup I’m happy with what it was.

That’s the heads up rugby we talk about. Instead of just getting it and banging it. (Recognise) there’s three lads back there. There must be space somewhere else. There was, it just comes down to execution.”

Though missing key men, the visit of Wales will still represent another step up in quality and intensity for Ireland after the close-fought win over Scotland. While his Six Nations minutes may bee low, Conway is on the verge of his 20th cap on top of a wealth of experience with Munster. So he knows the path leading up to tournament-defining matches well.

andrew-conway Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You’re just aware it’s a Test match and we need to prepare properly, mentally.

“They’ll give us the physical tools. We’ll do the training, pitch sessions. But it’s down to the individual to mentally prepare. Going into the Test arena is intense and you need to be emotionally right.

“You need to build up, you don’t need to do anything crazy… we want to be able to build right and be coming out the gap hard on Saturday.

“We know what’s going to come, they’re called Test matches for a reason. They’ll test you mentally, physically, emotionally – everything – it’s down to every individual.”

Conway waited years on the sidelines for just this sort of challenge. He’ll be ready.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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