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Dublin: 0°C Saturday 10 April 2021

Hard-hitting Will Connors ready for 'that next step'

The Kildare openside has yet to feature in Europe for Leinster, but has already caught they eye of Andy Farrell.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEO CULLEN LISTS off the biggest days in Will Connors’ big season and there is a clear common thread.

They were games in which Leinster badly needed to muck in and dig out, away games when they could not rest on their laurels trusting the tide to flow their way.Connacht, Glasgow and, on Saturday evening, Thomond Park.

The Kildare openside has been a superbly destructive addition to the Leinster back row this term. And while Josh van der Flier has been able to maintain the upper hand on a starting jersey for the biggest games, Connors’ inclusion in Andy Farrell’s pre-Christmas camp ahead of Jordi Murphy suggests he is not very far from a bow in green.

A brilliant performance to help Leinster keep Munster try-less ensured the 23-year-old underlined his promise for country and province as he racked up 23 tackles – three of which came in a jaw-dropping 22-second window as Leinster batted Munster back from the five-metre line.

“Whatever about chop tackling, his ability to be then able to hit through guys as well, means he is very dominant in some of his contact work,” said a proud head coach Leo Cullen.“There was lots of traffic coming down his channel and his line-speed coming off the line forces opposition 10s that little bit deeper as well.

“It’s another good step for Will. I think he has played in some tricky games – Connacht away, Glasgow away, here away and he has gone well in those games.“So, he is not a million miles off taking that next step,” added Cullen, alluding to the European experience that works as a stepping stone to international honours.

The flanker’s Champions Cup debut surely won’t be far away. Connors’ vicious and effective chop tackling technique is the element that stands out most, but Cullen sent praise the way of contact skills coach Hugh Hogan for bringing the openside along in all facets.

“He is non-stop. With Hugh Hogan, the work they put in with the back-rowers is reaping the rewards really.

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“It’s not rocket science but they really do scrutinise everything that they are doing – line speed, how they get off the line, body profile, shape going into the tackle, their work on the contact in terms of poaching on the ground as well.

“They are working away in little mini groups. Some guys are seeing the benefits of it on the field.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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