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'It's easier to silence that kind of noise... I feel a bit vindicated'

Leinster’s Jack Conan starts in the number eight shirt against Glasgow again tonight.

Conan makes a break last weekend against Scarlets.
Conan makes a break last weekend against Scarlets.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JACK CONAN TAKES a long pause when he’s asked if he feels the Lions fired their best shot at the Springboks during the summer.

As he ponders how best to put it, there’s a brief smile – or maybe a grimace.

The Leinster number eight eventually points out that the Lions could have won a Test series if it weren’t for missed chances and errors, from himself included, regardless of “what way we went about it.”

While Finn Russell has stated the Lions should have been more ambitious in attack and the likes of Iain Henderson have discussed frustrations about Warren Gatland’s selection and tactical approach, Conan puts it diplomatically in the end.

“Some of the attacking rugby probably wasn’t where it could have been considering the personnel and the squad that we had but in saying that, we went out and won the first Test playing that style of rugby,” says Conan.

“I know there were probably a lot of 50/50 aerial battles and things like that that we won in the first Test and then in the second Test, it goes their way. Look, hindsight is obviously a beautiful thing and it’s easy to sit here now and say, ‘We should have done this and that.’

“That’s something I don’t really want to get into, if I’m honest.”

Conan is more content to talk about what the tour did for him as a player. He was a bolter selection for the original squad but returned to Ireland a three-Test Lion after earning himself the starting spot at number eight against the Springboks.

conor-murray-and-jack-conan-dejected Conan started all three Lions Tests. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having had his comeback for Leinster last weekend against Scarlets, Conan will make his second appearance of the season this evening away to Glasgow [KO 7.35pm, TG4, Premier Sports, URC TV] as part of an exciting back row that also includes Caelan Doris and Dan Leavy.

Conan says coming back as a Lions starter has changed his mindset around his own game.

“Definitely after going and playing three Tests… sometimes you have that little voice at the back of your head that doubts yourself a little bit and I feel a bit vindicated after playing so much and playing such a part in it all.

“I feel it’s maybe a little bit easier to silence that kind of noise a little bit more now because I have a little bit more money in the bank in certain regards.”

It remains to be seen how Andy Farrell views the number eight pecking order over the November Tests, with Doris and Gavin Coombes also vying for the jersey, and Conan admits that even with his confidence boosted post-Lions, there’s always some doubt.

“Even last week, I hadn’t played a game, I was nervous and stressed about playing my first game back for Leinster,” he explains.

“You kind of doubt yourself a little bit. You think, ‘Oh I want to hit the ground running’ but it’s tough after 10 weeks off to come back and pick up where you left off.

“You’re constantly having those conversations, that inner dialogue with yourself and trying to put it to bed as quick as I can if I have a negative thought or doubt myself. I just think, ‘Right, if you make a mistake, don’t worry about it, just get on with it and enjoy it.’

“I’ve been better as the years go on at being able to deal with that mentally and quietening that voice in my head that says, ‘Oh, are you ready?’

jack-conan The Bray man is delighted to be back in action. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think that comes with experience and maybe an openness to being wrong and making mistakes and realising that these things just happen and get on with the job.”

Conan is delighted to have that first appearance of the season under his belt. A big linebreak off Johnny Sexton’s pass in the first half helped him to settle, although he jokes, “I was looking for the sideline after that, I was thinking, ‘get me off this pitch cos I am so tired.’”

Getting another start under the belt tonight in Glasgow is very welcome and then Conan will be off into international camp after being named in Farrell’s squad for the November Tests against Japan, New Zealand, and Argentina.

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Conan appreciates that other back row options have played more minutes than him this season but he’s ready for the challenge.

“I’m happy enough with my first performance at the weekend and I don’t feel like I’m off the pace or behind lads at Leinster or anywhere else in the country.

“I’m fit, I feel good, so I will put myself in the best mental and physical condition I can in the next few weeks and hopefully I get the nod for a few big games.”

 Glasgow:

  • 15. Ross Thompson
  • 14. Kyle Steyn
  • 13. Sione Tuipulotu
  • 12. Sam Johnson
  • 11. Rufus McLean
  • 10. Duncan Weir
  • 9. Ali Price
  • 1. Jamie Bhatti
  • 2. Johnny Matthews
  • 3. Zander Fagerson
  • 4. Rob Harley
  • 5. Richie Gray
  • 6. Ryan Wilson (captain)
  • 7. Rory Darge
  • 8. Jack Dempsey

Replacements:

  • 16. George Turner
  • 17. Oli Kebble
  • 18. Enrique Pieretto
  • 19. Lewis Bean
  • 20. Matt Fagerson
  • 21. George Horne
  • 22. Nick Grigg
  • 23. Cole Forbes

Leinster:

  • 15. Hugo Keenan
  • 14. Adam Byrne
  • 13. Garry Ringrose 
  • 12. Ciarán Frawley
  • 11. James Lowe
  • 10. Ross Byrne
  • 9. Luke McGrath 
  • 1. Cian Healy
  • 2. Rónan Kelleher 
  • 3. Tadhg Furlong 
  • 4. Ross Molony
  • 5. Ryan Baird 
  • 6. Caelan Doris 
  • 7. Dan Leavy 
  • 8. Jack Conan 

Replacements:

  • 16. Dan Sheehan 
  • 17. Ed Byrne 
  • 18. Michael Ala’alatoa
  • 19. Devin Toner 
  • 20. Rhys Ruddock 
  • 21. Jamison Gibson-Park 
  • 22. Jamie Osborne
  • 23. Josh van der Flier 

Referee: Craig Evans [WRU].

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey discuss Ireland’s squad, women’s rugby reviews, and the Tadhg Beirne incident on The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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