Andrew Conway at yesterday's URC launch. Billy Stickland/INPHO

Conway excited about detail of new Munster set-up as he nears return

The Ireland international should be back in action next month.

YOU MIGHT HAVE expected Andrew Conway to be watching on with a mixture of jealousy and frustration as Ireland made history in New Zealand over the summer.

If not for the knee injury that is set to keep him sidelined until late October, the Munster man would have been involved in Ireland’s series success against the All Blacks.

There was, of course, a hint of wishing he was there but Conway was a busy man, having married his partner Liz and with their newborn daughter Hailey now five months old. He might have missed out on the rugby front, but life has been good for the 31-year-old. 

And such is the strength of his mindset these days that Conway felt part of events in New Zealand even if he had been ruled out.

“I think I’ve matured a lot over the last number of years where you kind of realise it doesn’t mean that lads… I know you’re not physically there but you’re massively part of the team and there is a feeling of that as well.

“You throw in a little baby as well, you do see life a bit different!”

Conway was in excellent form at yesterday’s URC launch in London, outlining the changes in Munster, looking forward to his return from injury, and also reliving Ireland’s achievements against the Kiwis.

“I remember chatting to Tadhg Beirne after the first Test [in which Ireland were beaten] and I was kind of taken aback by how confident they were,” said Conway.

“I watched the first Test and New Zealand were good but they got a few gimme tries that they tend to do anyway, but I was just a bit taken aback by Tadhg saying how confident the group was.

“It was just a bit more unusual than I was expecting, and then they went out and they were spot on, the messages Faz was giving them, by all accounts, were spot on – ‘this is here to be won.’

“And you obviously throw in the first loss, the Māori one, and it was a special, special few weeks to be involved, to be an Irish rugby fan and an Irish rugby player, to go down there and do that.

james-ryan-and-andrew-conway-lift-the-triple-crown Conway and James Ryan lift the Triple Crown. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

“Obviously New Zealand aren’t going that great at the moment but it’s still no joke to go down there and do that. Beat them once, fair enough, beat them the second time is the really tough task and they did that pretty well.”

Conway has “turned a corner” with his recovery from knee surgery and hopes to work his way back into the Munster mix next month. That will put him back in the shop window for further Ireland honours under Andy Farrell, who picked Keith Earls and Mack Hansen on the right wing in New Zealand.

These are exciting times in Munster with a new staff in place in head coach Graham Rowntree, attack coach Mike Prendergast, defence coach Denis Leamy, and forwards coach Andi Kyriacou. Conway said it has been brilliant.

“Prendy is approaching us in the gym, coming up with the laptop and showing us stuff to do with wing plays,” he explained. “He’s a big fan of Juan Imhoff so he shows me a lot of Juan Imhoff clips!

“Very much in line with what we’re doing nationally as well, I know Prendy and Paul O’Connell are best mates or not far off it and they’re in a lot of contact. We’re trying to marry it up a small bit so we’re consistent.

“Then you’ve got Leams who is on the different spectrum. He tells it how it is so there have been some meetings where lads maybe haven’t been used to getting a bollocking for small details off the ball that actually make the whole thing go around, they’re now being shown and being brought up and they’re the things that matter, when you’re away from the ball what are you doing to make the fella around you look good.

“Sometimes those things don’t get seen if you’re not looking for them, you’re looking at the tackle or the breakdown. They’re the important things, they are going to win you a gainline or get you a double hit.

“And Wig [Rowntree] is overseeing it all and managing it, obviously still in charge of the breakdown and the scrum and we’re just trying to put it all together.

“It’s early days, these things aren’t going to happen overnight and we’ve got to be a small bit patient with it, much like when Faz came in with Ireland, it didn’t click straightaway but we saw where we wanted to go.”

The mention of marrying things up between Munster and Ireland camp is an interesting one.

andrew-conway-and-jonathan-davies-share-a-joke Conway with Jonathan Davies at the URC launch.

Conway speaks with real passion about the details of the game, having had his eyes opened to the intricacies of the game in recent years. He puts that awakening down to the quality of coaches he has been exposed to.

He’s excited by the direction things are going in Munster, the similarities to Ireland’s approach. He reveals that former team-mate John Ryan told him that his new club Wasps have been studying clips of the Irish attack.

Conway is reveling in the detail Munster’s coaches are bringing.

“Within phase attack, the detail of different forward pods, the breakdown of what actually happens if a 10 is getting a ball out of the back – is he turning the corner or just going lateral?

“Those little details that are every pass, where the pass is, catching the ball early, like every detail.

“And it’s not a prescribed thing, it’s, ‘if you do this in this way, this is what happens, this is the end result’ and you only get that by constantly drilling it, constantly reviewing it.

“If you’re doing a walk-through, how are you doing it, are you going through the motions or actually training your brain to run square whenever you’re in a particular thing?”

The scrutiny has been applied to Munster’s defensive effort too.

“The detail around the meetings is probably a small bit different, we’re probably looking at less content but looking at each clip in more detail, a bit more pausing, looking at body angles, looking at who is square, looking at spacing, looking at being left behind by a yard.

“To the naked eye that’s nothing but to making a line break or a double hit, it’s everything.”

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