Jack Conan could be natural successor to Heaslip at number eight -- Kevin McLaughlin

The 22-year-old will make his third start for Leinster at the RDS tomorrow night.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

KEVIN MCLAUGHLIN DIDN’T need any extra factors to make him excited for Leinster’s Pro12 clash with Edinburgh tomorrow.

The back row has had a troublesome time of it over recent months, battling one knee injury at the tail end of last season and bruising more knee bones on an awkward late landing against the Scarlets at the start of this campaign.

No playing time means no serious contact from Joe Schmidt, so McLaughlin says he is “dying to get out playing” again. At the RDS, he will run out as captain of a team mixing youth and experience.

The most inexperienced of his team-mates will pack down right next to him. Although the Halloween fixture will be just Jack Conan’s third start in blue, McLaughlin has seen enough to be impressed by the 22-year-old number eight.

“He could be a natural successor to Jamie,” McLaughlin said with wide eyes to back up the highest of compliments for a Leinster back row.

“We’ll have to see how he goes in the next couple of years but all the signs so far have been really positive. It’ll be another good test for him tomorrow night. He’s very young and he’s already showing really promising form.”

He added: “He’s a big  man, he’s a good athlete, a quick learner; he’s learning the plays really fast – line-out stuff – I think he’s going to be around the club for a long time.”

Praise from McLaughlin is noteworthy, the blindside is a keen technician when it comes to forward play at least in his own sport.

“It took me a while to get around this,” he jokes while charting Ben Te’o's transition from rugby league to the 15-man game.

Kevin McLaughlin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“He was a second row in rugby league – obviously he doesn’t know a huge amount about the set-piece. He informed me he’s never jumped in a line-out, anyway. But in training he’s looking impressive. he’s a bit of a specimen.”

While his praise for Conan was effusive, tomorrow’s captain wasn’t quite as glowing about Te’o's breakdown efforts. A work in progress, it’s fair to say:

“It’s going to take a few months to adapt to all the details and little bits about rugby union. I think he’s going to be a good asset to us.”

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With senior players off on international duty, the Champions Cup neatly tucked away for over a month and the Pro12 about to take a three-week break; the visit of Edinburgh is the kind of fixture that could easily slip out of focus.

The 30-year-old McLaughlin insists there’s no danger of that happening on his watch.

“If we were playing the same 15 that played against Castres, there could be a bit of rustiness and tiredness. But there’s a lot of fresh faces coming in, a lot of enthusiasm in training. We’ve to make sure everyone is switched on, that’s a little bit of my responsibility but it hasn’t been too hard so far.”

“I have to keep reminding myself it’s only October and there’s a lot of games left to be played. We’re coming in to an important period now when the lads are away.

“We’ve got to make sure to keep the shop in order and make it a fourth win in a row.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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