Jack Conan: ‘You can’t let winning make you soft’

Backrower focused on improvements to prevent victory from papering over cracks

Jack Conan's mood was good. But his mind was still swimming in detail, the good bits the bad bits, the bits to take home, the bits that were fixed, the bits that will stay with him and the mental bits that along with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris allowed them to out play the All Black backrow of Ethan Blackadder, Ardie Savea and Dalton Papalii.

After his first time playing against the Rugby Championship winners, Conan’s barnstorming performance to back up last week’s against Japan brought a kind of reinforcement of going in the right direction and a flood of new experiences.

“Look, we didn’t get it all our own way, but that’s a credit to them and how good we are. But we stayed true, we stayed on task, we trusted the systems and it paid dividends in the end,” said Conan.

“The atmosphere, I have never ever experienced something like that. From the anthems to when Caelan scores that try, to Tadhg Beirne making that turnover right at the end…the noise, you feel the crowd.


“It was like they were standing on the pitch. It was the greatest experience atmosphere wise I have ever been a part of. It was absolutely incredible, it really was. It made the hairs on your neck stand up. It gives you such a lift, it gives everybody energy. You live off that. You get bigger, you get stronger. You become more defiant as you hear the noise from the crowd.”

When you beat the world champions the take-away is largely positive. But as coach Andy Farrell said, there is room to improve. What Ireland left on the pitch, after the first half especially, will be something to dissect. But it could have bitten badly.

Conan knows that certain moments decide Test matches. Akira Ioane’s disallowed try, Tadhg Furlong’s disallowed try, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne’s turnovers in the second half, Joey Carbery’s 50-metre penalty.

“How many times were we on their try-line and we didn’t come away with points?” he asks. “That’s something we will have to rectify because against such a good side like that, yeah we got away with it today. But the next week against Argentina or in the summer when we are over in New Zealand, we won’t get away with it.

“So, it’s about coming away from points every time you get into their 22 because we know how difficult it is to get in there.”

There has always been honesty to the way Conan plays and talks. The result won’t change that. He will suck up all the satisfaction but his DNA is refreshing and cautionary.

“People always say ‘Winning makes you soft.’ It does, it does. Sometimes it can paper over the cracks. You think ‘Oh yeah, we won, we had a great performance,’” he says.

“But again, we left loads of points out there. Some of our lineout stuff wasn’t great or we missed bullets and barrels in rucks that we should have got, things like that. I suppose for us, it’s about not believing the hype. Yeah, we are a good side, but we are not as good as what people are saying.

“I’m sure tomorrow everyone will be saying how great we are and yeah it is fantastic to beat those lads, to give the Irish public that massive day. But we are not as good as people think we are. We need to be better. We need to go and look harder at ourselves and work harder on the basics to be better. You can’t let winning make you soft.”

In Conan’s case, never a doubt.