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'If you’re playing well enough for Connacht, you’re going to get picked for Ireland'

23-year-old back row Paul Boyle has been in strong form for the westerners in recent seasons.

Boyle has become a key man for Connacht.
Boyle has become a key man for Connacht.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE CONNACHT SQUAD did their best to make the nickname ‘Ronseal’ stick to Paul Boyle a couple of months ago but the 23-year-old refused to bite.

“I didn’t react and it went after a couple of weeks,” explains Boyle. “If you react, you’re gone.”

It stemmed from Boyle picking up the ‘Ronseal Tackle Machine’ gong as part of the Guinness Pro14 awards thanks to his remarkable 98.3% success rate from the 179 tackles he attempted over the course of the 2019/20 season.

“I didn’t even know about it until halfway through last season and the Pro14 Instagram put up something about me being on 98 or 99%, and the next week I went out and missed a tackle!” says Boyle with a laugh when asked about his high-quality tackling.

He hasn’t hit those figures by accident. Boyle does three or four extra stints of tackling with Connacht defence coach Peter Wilkins every week away from the province’s regular training sessions, keen as he is to consistently nail such a crucial part of the game.

There is plenty more to Boyle’s skillset and he has emerged as an important player for the province in recent seasons.

It’s now over three years since Gorey RFC product Boyle moved to Connacht and he’s delighted with how things have worked out.

He played for Leinster’s underage teams but wasn’t offered a full academy spot after captaining the Ireland U20 team in 2017, when he was a Lansdowne FC man.

Instead, Nigel Carolan - the coach who had made him Ireland U20 skipper – convinced him to shift to Galway and Boyle hasn’t looked back since.

“As soon as I got here, I knew this was the place for me,” says Boyle.

“I got my first cap when I was in the academy. The following year, I think I played 12 or 15 games [he actually played 22 times] and you start really feeling part of it and the lads make you feel part of it as well.

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ben-jones-with-paul-boyle Boyle captained the Ireland U20s in 2017. Source: Camerasport/Alex Dodd/INPHO

“It does help when you’re playing, everyone wants to play every week and at the moment I want to keep doing that and keep progressing.”

Having captained his country at U20 level, Boyle has ambitions of pushing on into the senior squad too.

“I obviously have my sights set on Ireland in the future, whenever that will be.

“I’m a firm believer that if you play well enough, you will get picked. It doesn’t matter what province you’re playing in. I know that if I play well enough here, it’s a really good avenue to get to Irish selection.

“As you can see with the seven guys that we got selected for Ireland [for the recent Six Nations fixtures], if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get picked. I just use that as motivation to try and get better every day.”

Boyle, who has played in all three back row positions for Connacht, will have to wait another while to keep his mission going, with today’s planned clash against Dragons postponed.

They also a scheduled clash against Benetton postponed last weekend, but Boyle and co. are excited to get Carolan’s attack going again as soon as possible.

“One of Nigel’s philosophies is to ‘save fuel for when we need to attack,’” explains Boyle of why Connacht are looking so dangerous.

“So if we’re in our own half and there’s space in the backfield, we’re going to find space and play in the right areas. Not only does that put us in the right area but it means we have more energy to attack when the opportunity arises – we can go at 100% then.

“There’s no point in playing nine or 10 phases in your own half where you might make a break. We’re putting the ball in the right areas and knowing that when we attack, we’re going to score. That’s our mindset.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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