Jack Conan: ‘We showed so much about who we really are’

‘It’s about spring boarding forward now and not taking a step backwards’

Jack Conan and Guilhem Guirado in action during Ireland’s win over France at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Jack Conan and Guilhem Guirado in action during Ireland’s win over France at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

Yes, but is it good enough to beat Wales? The glass half full. Again. The fans happy to drink from it. Again. But as Joe Schmidt observed, Wales are “sitting on their sofas.” See, already he’s preparing his players to face them in six days. Woe betide the team that loses a turnaround day.

Deep down Schmidt knows exactly what he got from France. He got enough to go to Cardiff with plenty recovery in his Irish side’s soul to feed the belief that the championship narrative for Ireland is not yet complete. He got enough replenishment for a no surrender attitude in the Millennium Stadium.

It seems now, the bigger challenge the better it will be to draw out Ireland’s stinging game after delivering a performance in line with who they really are. It’s what Jack Conan said. Off the bench after 23 minutes for the injured Josh van der Flier and Conan rose to the high tempo game, handed over a heavy shift and also a bump-the-hooker muscle try.

There were enough Irish errors to trigger a thousand bar room conversations. But this month and last Ireland came away from Scotland and Italy with ugly wins and confidence deflated. Not after France. This Irish team recognises themselves again. That counts for something.

“Yeah I think I agree,” said Conan. “This was a performance. It might not have been 80 minutes but it was 50, 60, 70 minutes. We showed some really, really good stuff. We went back to the basics and held on to the ball. Quite well at times. We brought them through so many phases and made them work real hard.

“It was disappointing to go through a few of those scrums and not come away with a few points. But I think we were so much better today than we were in previous weeks. It’s about spring boarding forward now and not taking a step backwards.”

The Leinster backrow explained that the five points are everything and nothing. Vital in challenging for the championship in Cardiff on Saturday, the points are all part of a bigger joined up equation. Ranked two in the world brings a real sense of self awareness and understanding of who the team should be beating and more how they should be beating them.

It’s a hard earned feeling of potential and worth. In that world Conan knows that this Irish side has just bought themselves a shot.

“ I thought we showed so much today about who we really are and quite similar to the ones (performances) we put in last year and even back in November. We did what we wanted to do,” he says. “Again, not a full 80 minute performance. But again we came on leaps and bounds to where we were a few weeks ago, even against Italy and against Scotland.

“And England, we had a massive wrong to right about the last time we played here and lost in the fashion that we did. We didn’t do ourselves any justice. So it was great to come out today and show that was a slip and we are really back and we’re going forward.”

The sense of grievance to supporters and family has been a running theme in Irish rugby, recently more so than ever. The lament that players didn’t perform has been a stick they have used to occasionally tan their own hides. And they don’t spare the rod.

“We owed it to ourselves and to everyone who comes to those game and watches,” he says.

But for Conan and the rest of the pack, who pinned France into their own half for the first 40 minutes like no other team in memory, the calamity of van der Fliers early injury might transpire to be Conan’s benediction.

“It was a bit of a shock,” he says. “I didn’t expect to be coming in so early. But it was good. It was a high tempo game that suits me. I got my hands on the ball early and was able to make a lot of carries. That’s when I got my second wind.

“I felt that I hadn’t come off the bench so that was very good. The conditions had changed all day. But at that stage it was dry and allowed for a pretty up tempo game. It suited us to make the heavy French forwards work hard around the pitch and paid dividends with scores we got in the first half.”

It shows what Ireland are about, he says. It shows what the team is capable of doing even with the changes of Jordon Larmour and himself. It shows how “hungry” lads are.

“I think we’re in a really good place now,” he adds. Yes, but is it good enough to beat Wales?

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