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'I’m dying to get back playing' - Heffernan aiming to show Farrell some form

The Connacht hooker has been released from Ireland camp for the province’s URC fixture against Scarlets this weekend.

Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan.
Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

WHAT HAD LOOKED a promising season has taken a difficult turn for Connacht, the province currently sitting 10th in the United Rugby Championship table with just four wins from 10 outings.

Andy Friend’s side have lost their last four games on the bounce across the URC and Champions Cup [Ulster and Glasgow in the URC, Stade Francais and Leicester in Europe], and head into the next block of fixtures knowing they need a serious upturn in form if they are to climb back up the table.

This weekend they return to URC action with a trip to play Scarlets on Saturday, looking to secure a first away win of the season.

“Everyone knows we need a win, but how we get there is how we play,” says hooker Dave Heffernan.

“We let ourselves down a bit in the last few weeks with the way we’ve played so we haven’t been too hung up on talking about winning. We want to get back to playing the way we were playing about a month ago when we were a real attacking threat. 

In fairness to Pete (Wilkins, senior coach) he’s identified a lot of things we can improve on and given us actionable work-ons in our attack specifically. There’s a lot of room for improvement there, we slipped up in the last few weeks. That’s what we’ll focus on rather than talking about getting a win. We all know we need a win, but it’s how we do it.”

Connacht’s most recent win came at home to Munster on New Year’s Day. Since then, they managed to push both Stade Francais and Leicester hard in back-to-back European games, building healthy leads on both occasions only to ultimately fall short.

“They are big, big teams and presented a physical challenge,” Heffernan continues.

“I wouldn’t say we were shocked by it but up front, especially in the European games, we probably let ourselves down a bit. Leicester and Stade both came after us, our scrum had been going well in the URC but when we stepped up in those European games they cut us a bit. Dewald (Senekal, forwards coach) has done a lot of really hard work getting us back up there with our scrum.”

The hooker is one of two Connacht players – Jack Carty being the other – released from Ireland camp this week as the Six Nations takes a short break. 

dave-heffernan-celebrates Heffernan was last capped against the USA last July. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

An injury to Ulster’s Rob Herring saw Heffernan called into Andy Farrell’s squad as cover ahead of last weekend’s trip to play France – where starting hooker Rónan Kelleher also picked up an injury – and the 31-year-old is keen to add to his six Test caps, the last of which came against the USA last July.

This weekend represents a timely opportunity for Heffernan to show some form ahead of the final three rounds of Six Nations fixtures.

“That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do, I’m dying to get back playing. It’s gone a bit stop-start for me since Christmas. The more rugby I can get into me the better. Hopefully I can put my best foot forward.

“There’s really strong competition there at hooker (with Ireland), each of the lads that are there (Kelleher and Dan Sheehan) bring their own different strengths to it.

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“I just need to get back playing for Connacht consistently and getting on the ball. My carrying is one of my best attributes, that’s something I’m going to try to work on in the next few games, get my hands on the ball as much as possible and be solid at the set-piece.”

Ireland legend Rob Kearney joined host Seán Burke, Murray Kinsella and Eimear Considine for the first episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Rob ​​speaks about his most euphoric moment in a green jersey, life after retirement, a “brutal” return to the GAA pitch, and his skincare routine. Click here to subscribe or listen below:


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