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Heffernan eyes vacant Irish hooker slot after inclusion in Farrell's Six Nations squad

‘Obviously Rory Best had the jersey pretty much locked down for the last number of years. There probably is a bit of an opening there.’

Dave Heffernan training in Galway.
Dave Heffernan training in Galway.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CONNACHT HOOKER DAVE Heffernan wants to lay down a big performance in France and show new Ireland coach Andy Farrell what he is capable of after being included in the Six Nations squad.

The 28-year old from Ballina, Co. Mayo picked up his only Irish cap against the USA in New Jersey in the summer of 2017 and is keen to add to that after getting the nod from Farrell.

Heffernan was one of three hookers called into Farrell’s first Ireland get-together before Christmas, and after the retirement of Rory Best he feels the race to replace the former Ireland hooker remains wide open.

dave-heffernan Connacht's Dave Heffernan. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Heffernan is currently battling it out with Tom McCartney and Shane Delahunt for the starting Connacht shirt, one of the most competitive positions at the Sportsground, and he hopes to add to his single Ireland cap in the coming weeks.

“I was a great camp. It was really good to be involved there. It seems really exciting. Look it’s hard to know from a one-day camp,” said Heffernan, speaking at Connacht’s weekly media briefing this week prior to his selection.

“It was very quick — we just had a few meetings and an intense-enough training session. It was just great to be in there and just trying to get used to things, and to know what the expectations are going forward if you’re lucky enough to get involved.

Look, I really enjoyed my time up there and am looking forward to building on that. Obviously Rory Best had the jersey pretty much locked down for the last number of years. There probably is a bit of an opening there. But again, there’s a lot of competition.

“I mean, look at all the other guys in the provinces and the guys here as well are all playing well. So yeah, I’d say, pretty much, it is one of the positions [with Ireland] that may be more open than others.”

Ulster’s Rob Herring and Leinster’s Rónan Kelleher have also been named in the Ireland squad with the surprise omission of Munster’s Niall Scannell, while Leinster’s Sean Cronin also misses out.

Herring has eight Ireland caps to his name and Kelleher has yet to debut, but playing against the team currently sixth in the French Top 14 standings, Heffernan hopes he can enhance his claim this weekend.

dave-heffernan-and-aj-macginty Heffernan in action during his only Irish cap against the USA in 2017. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After away defeats to Toulouse and Gloucester earlier in the pool, last weekend’s home loss against Toulouse ended Connacht’s hopes of qualification. And like against the four-time winners, he thinks Montpellier’s pack will try to test the power of the western province’s scrum.

“The Toulouse scrum did a job on us at the end of the game there so that’s something we had to look back on. It was tough viewing, all right.

It’s an area I’m sure they (Montpellier) will be targeting after looking at that game. We did really well at the start of the game; it was just the last couple of scrums went against us. I’m sure they’ll see that as an opportunity to go after us there.

“After last weekend we had a lot of good honest conversations. It was tough for the squad but constructive as well. And there’s a lot a lot to learn from that game.

“There was a lot of frustrating things, but the one positive was that we did put in at least a much-improved performance than the previous couple weeks, which were very disappointing to be honest.

“It was a small step in the right direction, but still a long way off where we need to be.”

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Declan Rooney

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