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'My time being patient is over, it's time to play and perform in those big games' -- Jack Conan

Jamie Heaslip’s back injury gave Conan a chance to shine for club and country last season, and he grabbed it tight in both hands.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JACK CONAN IS right to be bullish.

The back row is edging closer to a new season and has an Ireland jersey on for a promotional photoshoot.

Having squeezed in, he likes the fit, and anyone who stayed up or got up for the unsociably-timed summer international Tests will have appreciated the devastating affect Conan had as he slotted in to the middle of Ireland’s back row.

There will be more robust challenges than Japan and the US Eagles ahead, but Conan played like a man who refused to be dragged to anyone else’s level. He utterly dominated nigh-on every physical exchange and ate up yards while linking fluidly with backs who benefited from the holes he continually punched.

With that body of work, plus impressive European days in Leinster colours, behind him the Dubliner isn’t willing to sit back and wait for Jamie Heaslip to return from injury and nudge straight back into both blue and green number eight jerseys. Conan is 25, more  than ready to take mantle.

“I think I had a great season last year and I backed it up with three good performances in the green jersey at the end of the season,” he said as he launched the Canterbury kit he hopes to fill for the 11 Tests ahead of Ireland this season.

“I’m not looking to take my foot off the pedal at all, even though there are people coming back into the frame.

“I think my time of being patient is over. Now it’s time to play and perform in those big games.”

Previous to playing in the United States, I only had one cap and, in my eyes, it wasn’t exactly a great performance. At least I now have a bit more pedigree to me and I have those games under my belt. I definitely think that I have a bit more weight on my side in terms of selection.”

“I’ll be disappointed if I’m not selected (for Leinster) when it comes to Europe and things that but that’s in my hands at the moment.”

If that sounds confident, it is. Arrogant? No.

Conan has always carried himself in an assured manner, and he backs up his dominance of a room and a handshake with dominance in collisions. Humility is never far away when you’re in a lengthy tour under Joe Schmidt either. And the international chief’s voice is coming through in pre-season through the Leinster senior coach.

Jack Conan, Joey Carbery and Rhys Ruddock Canterbury, official kit supplier to the Ireland Rugby team, has unveiled the new Ireland Rugby jersey for the 2017/18 season. The kit features ground-breaking technologies designed to give players an in-game competitive advantage and is available to buy now. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Joe has spoken to Stuart Lancaster so I’ve had a small bit of feedback from him but nothing directly from Joe yet. Hopefully before camp starts I’ll get a bit more or at least get a chance to talk to him about areas that I can work in.

“It was positive. It was kind of the compliment sandwich: ‘here’s a good thing, here’s a not so good thing, here’s another good thing’. Definitely a few work-ons for me coming into the November internationals but overall, (it was) positive.”

Positive enough for him to be able to look at those November Tests and picture himself starting.


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There is plenty of rugby to be played before those opportunities come along and more competition . CJ Stander will return to training with Munster next week and will have plenty to say through his performances. Heaslip, the long-time owner of the Ireland number eight shirt, is set to return from a back injury to compete for the minutes Conan craves. But if the summer tour’s stand-out forward can see off the challenges within his own province, he has every chance of remaining Schmidt’s first-choice eight when South Africa come to town. Every chance that he can mark an end to his apprenticeship under Heaslip.

“(Heaslip) absolutely was, he still is a mentor, he’s got so much experience, 70 odd caps for Ireland, two Lions tours, loads of trophies so no matter if it does come to a point where I am playing ahead of him, he’ll always be a mentor, he’ll always have more experience than I will.

“I think last year obviously he was unfortunate enough to be injured and I was able to take up that slot so I think this season will kind of show we’re more rivals than understudy.”

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