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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 25 March, 2019
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Connacht lock Dillane happy to be firmly back in Ireland's plans

The 25-year-old is hoping for a fourth appearance in the championship against Wales.

A 76TH-MINUTE lineout steal was perhaps the highlight of Ultan Dillane’s 23-minute cameo off the bench as Ireland beat France last weekend.

It was the Connacht lock’s second lineout pilfer of the championship, leaving Dillane joint-third overall in this individual category in what has been a positive Six Nations for him.

Ultan Dillane Dillane has had a good Six Nations. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The stint off the bench against les Bleus saw Dillane contribute six carries for an impressive average gain of three metres per carry, although the 25-year-old picked out some flaws too.

There was a missed tackle on Gael Fickou and Dillane also pointed to his defensive effort in the maul that gave France their second try in the closing stages.

“I felt I personally could have done a better job,” said Dillane, who could provide bench cover again on Saturday in Wales.

“Just timing, I think it was just timing. I could have got in a little bit quicker, personally.
It could have made a difference, so that’s the thing to keep in mind for me if I’m lucky enough to get selected.”

There has been some degree of luck for Dillane in this championship, with injuries to Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne in the early rounds allowing him to move up the pecking order, but he has taken his chances.

After a good showing off the bench against Scotland in round two, Dillane made his third Ireland start versus Italy before being sprung as a sub against the French.

A fourth championship appearance in Cardiff would wrap up the Six Nations nicely for the Tralee man, particularly given that he wasn’t involved at all in 2018.

Ultan Dillane Dillane is hoping for another chance this weekend. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

He missed out on selection for last year’s championship but his mind was in a very different place at that time as he lost his mother, Ellen, who passed away in February of last year.

Dillane wasn’t involved in the 2018 November Tests either as he gradually built himself back up and rediscovered his best form on the pitch, and he’s happy to be back in the mix again in 2019.

“I think my head was elsewhere in terms of what to focus on,” said Dillane of last year. “As it happened, I just couldn’t play. I’ve never looked back on last season and thought, ‘I should have done this and that.’ I just felt it was a bit awkward.

“But I’m happy to be at this stage of the season, to feel fit and strong, and hopefully take it into returning to my province. I’m definitely in a better position than I was last season.

“It’s been a good experience for me [this year]. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much game time in this setup so it’s been great but obviously, there’s still plenty of things to work on.

“I’m not overly content with everything and I’m just hoping I can get involved again and to do some better work.”

If Dillane is selected on the bench again this weekend, he will hope to be part of a stronger collective effort.

Ireland’s Ultan Dillane after the match The Ireland bench is hoping to be better this weekend. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Ireland’s subs impressed for much of the final quarter last weekend but failed to finish off the French after a series of scrums, then conceded two tries in the dying minutes.

“That’s our big focus this week,” said Dillane. “The boys did such a good job in the first half and that’s what we’ve been looking for for the whole tournament really, it’s a step in the right direction for us.

“We had a spell where we felt we should have got more points out of it, but the scrum didn’t go our way in that last scrum and we ended up not getting possession back.

“I think that’s where we missed an opportunity to put the nail in the coffin but the French fought back reasonably well.

“The Welsh are going to be a completely different outfit. They could punish us more at that time in the game so it means we definitely have a lot of work to do to put in a good performance in the Principality Stadium.”

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Murray Kinsella

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