Jack Crowley is talking about going to Paris Disneyland. The Ireland squad have a two-day window to kick back and the theme park is on the possible list. Crowley is standing underneath the stand at the tunnel side of Stade de France after beating South Africa 13-8. But when Disneyland comes up he can’t resist poking fun at his Munster team-mate Craig Casey.
“We have to get a pass for Craig,” he quips about the Irish scrumhalf and Disneyland.
The mood is ripe for tomfoolery after the feelgood win. Less than two hours earlier Crowley came on in Ireland’s third Rugby World Cup match to essentially kick the crucial score, ensuring the Springboks needed a converted try or two penalties to win the match on a night when all sorts of kicking was on show.
“Pretty special,” says Crowley. “I think when you are sitting on the bench looking up at the clock and looking at the time ... Just when you are coming on you gotta know the magnitude of the game and the responsibility. But I think it was a fairly easy one in front of the posts. So, If I’d missed that I think ye’d be saying a different story to me.”
The stadium shot clock shredded the nerves of many but Crowley held his and sweetly struck the ball with about four seconds of the permitted 60 remaining.
“I don’t know who was standing to my right,” he says. “It might have been James Lowe but I know it sometime looks – I don’t know what the word is – it’s precious time. At that stage, you’ve got to be closing out the game. You can’t be giving them an opportunity because they will take it. So, the shot clock up in the corner, you are watching it and it got to 10. Precious time.”
Crowley has been deftly using time to reposition himself on the Irish team. His role has changed dramatically over the last season and appears to have gained fresh prominence in recent weeks. Versatility is one key to his rise, with professional outings at fullback, inside centre and outhalf.
Twelve months ago he was in Bloemfontein with the Emerging Ireland squad and last November he was given 35 minutes against Fiji for his first cap before being named on to the bench as Johnny Sexton’s understudy. But the 23-year-old appears insouciant amid it all. Pulling Munster strings in the URC to end their 12-year wait for silverware must have helped. The Springboks was just his eighth cap.
“You are constantly taking pictures of the responsibility and role you have when you come on. It could change,” he says. “We could be down a score and then you are working out what you have to do to get there and thankfully that wasn’t the case and I got a nice easy penalty. You have to be aware of the situation you are coming into and then kind of work it out and find a solution.
“I think something that’s massive as well throughout the week were the lads that weren’t involved. We’d difficult selection for lads. But I think as a group we are unbelievably connected, so when a decision is made about selection, lads don’t hang around and dwell on it, they get on it with the preparation with the lads, show us pictures of what South Africa do. That preparation, it allows us as a bench to come on and see those pictures for the second time.”
Ross Byrne would have been one of the players who fell into the difficult selection bracket. Despite his 22 caps and seniority, the Leinster man did not get the nod from Andy Farrell, who clearly believed the younger player had more of what he needed on the pitch.
Crowley is already thinking about the next challenge. “This week obviously we have a few days off to recover, to rest because it has been a few intense weeks,” he says “We go back in on Wednesday and the preparation begins for Scotland. I suppose they are going to grow throughout the competition.
“We have come up against them in the Six Nations and they have been one the toughest competitors you come up against because of the way they play, so the game plan again is something that is going to be different [compared with the match against South Africa] so our eyes are firmly on them. Recovering this week, preparation is massive Wednesday to Sunday and then back into the game week. I’m sure they will be gunning for us.”
There were no injuries against South Africa and it’s difficult to see Farrell deviating far from the side that beat the World champions. Crowley may enjoy Disneyland.