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'It's an honour to be talked about in terms of an Ireland squad'

Niyi Adeolokun is working hard on his finishing ability as he continues to improve.

IT WOULD BE easy to take the art of finishing for granted, to simply pass it off as a skill that comes naturally.

But the best finishers in rugby work diligently on their ability in this area, and Connacht’s Niyi Adeolokun is determined to be included in any conversations about the finest five-point collectors.

Niyi Adeolokun Adeolokun is loving life in Galway. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Certainly, Adeolokun was never too far from the try scorers list during his days with De La Salle College Churchtown and Trinity College in Dublin, but he understands the need to continue learning and growing in the craft of finishing.

Adeolokun took time to amass tries last season, but he ended the 2015/16 campaign with nine in 17 starts. A score against Glasgow  on the opening day of the new Pro12 season bodes well for the coming months.

Any friendly slagging about being a ‘non try-scoring winger’ – led by Aly Muldowney last season – is in the past.

“I’m going to have to text him about that!” says Adeolokun with a smile. “It wasn’t about scoring tries, it was really about playing for the team and if you get into the right spot and score, it’s good. But for me it’s just about performing well for the team.”

Adeolokun has certainly done so, with his tackle technique and defensive reads standing out last season in Connacht’s Pro12 triumph. Adding tries is the icing on the cake.

Adeolokun

Above, we see Adeolokun’s try against Glasgow two weekends ago.

Excellent hands from Eoin Griffin provide Adeolokun with the one-on-one opportunity against the sweeping Henry Pyrgos.

Around 10 metres out from the line there is still work for the Adeolokun to do, but he finishes intelligently. Shape for the inside shoulder, sit Pyrgos down and then burst back to the outside. Clinical.

Perhaps Adeolokun could tuck the ball into his right arm, on the outside, in order to open the possibility of a fend and simultaneously reduce the prospect of Pyrgos stripping the ball or holding it up over the tryline.

Indeed, we have seen Adeolokun finish with the ball on the inside before. This may be the next ‘work-on’ he looks to develop with backs coach Conor McPhillips and skills coach Dave Ellis.

Especially at the start of this season, we have been doing a lot of one-on-one finishing and sidestepping drills,” says Adeolokun. “I would be bad with sidestepping in general, but I feel like it has been helping me.”

“You see a few of the lads like Bundee [Aki] and a few others, they would be able to put in some footwork to beat players, which is coming through in the games.”

Adeolokun has been showing glimpses of his footwork in the opening games of the season too.

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The Nigerian native says he enjoys working on the technical and tactical elements of the game, agreeing with the impression that he is bringing more confidence to his play for Pat Lam’s side.

Such was Adeolokun’s impact last season, Joe Schmidt found himself name-checking the Connacht wing when explaining his squad selection for the June tour of South Africa.

“It’s an honour to be talked about in terms of an Ireland squad on the outside, but to be honest my job is simple enough – that’s to play with Connacht,” says Adeolokun.

Obviously, whatever happens on the back of that happens but I just want to do my best with Connacht and, hopefully, create history with Connacht again.”

This week, Adeolokun signed a contract extension with the western province until 2019 to underline his loyalty to the cause, although he explains that it was one of the most straightforward decisions of his life.

“I wasn’t looking anywhere else and it was up to Connacht to tell me if they wanted me to stay, which they did. I’m delighted to be staying here for another two years.”

Niyi Adeolokun Adeolokun is in his third season with Connacht. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Adeolokun is part of the Connacht squad for this weekend’s visit to Italy to face Zebre and he stresses that the collective goal is based around “shutting down” the defensive problems that proved so costly against Glasgow and the Ospreys.

Last weekend, Tiernan O’Halloran pointed out that losing consecutive games at home is a new feeling for many of the Connacht squad, but Adeolokun jokes that he has had plenty of practice.

“To be fair, in the Connacht set-up it is a little bit [new], but when I played with my school teams, we lost every game in the season!

“At the end of the day, it’s the same process. You have to go back and look at the things you did right and the things you did badly, and look to improve.”

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