Kieran Treadwell keen to make the most of his ‘second chance’ with Ireland

Ulster forward included in Farrell’s Six Nations squad after making three caps in 2017

Kieran Treadwell was, perhaps, the most surprising inclusion in Ireland's 37-man squad for the 2022 Guinness Six Nations. After all, the 26-year-old hadn't featured in an Andy Farrell squad until now, and his three previous caps were earned under Joe Schmidt in 2017 against Japan (twice) and Fiji.

While James Ryan, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne were all nailed on, admittedly Ultan Dillane's departure at the end of the season had opened a door or two, with the younger Ryan Baird, Ross Molony, Fineen Wycherley and Treadwell the contenders for the remaining two spots. But even though Baird, Molony and Wycherley had all featured in the summer squad, Farrell and co went with Baird and Treadwell, who admits he was a little surprised to hear the news last week after a training session with his province.

“I was in the changing rooms and the boys were coming back in dribs and drabs and saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going’, and Nick [Timoney] said, ‘Have you got an email?’ ‘I was, like, aw no,’ and I checked it then and there it was in my inbox. I was a little surprised.”

Hailing from Sutton in South London, and a product of the Harlequins academy, Treadwell's mother is Irish and he played for the Ireland Under-18s before representing the England Under-20s. Alex Dombrandt was a fellow pupil at the John Fisher School in Croydon, and he played alongside Ellis Genge and Charlie Ewels.

Explosive

Since joining Ulster in 2016, Treadwell has played 118 times for Ulster and at 6ft 6½in, is an athletic, explosive and quick lock, whose set-piece work has developed well in the last year. He can also scrum on the tight-head side.

He’s a better player for his experiences in 2017 on the summer tour to Japan and the States under Schmidt, and the ensuing November window when he played against Fiji.

“I just matured more as a player and worked on certain areas that Joe told me to focus and try and improve. I’ve been doing that with Dan [McFarland] at Ulster, sorta putting those consistent performances together. I think that was probably the main thing for me, staying consistent with it.

“To be honest, I think it is a mix of everything really. I do think Dan has helped me along the way as well as all the coaching staff at Ulster.

“I think as you get more experience over time you understand yourself as a player as well so you know what your strengths are, you know your weaknesses. You kind of find out the player you want to be, which I think is massive.

“So you put identity into it and you put your best foot forward with the confidence that you know who you are and what you’re going to bring.”

To that end, every player who aspires to perform at Test level has to have a point of difference, and Treadwell says: “I think it is my athletic ability to break the gainline, to get through those tight carries, to get my nose through in tight play, that sorta thing, to make as many impacts as I can sorta thing, be physical in my ability and making sure I am always ready and always there.”

Second time around, as it were, and over four years older, Treadwell also appreciates his inclusion more.

“Yes definitely. Obviously there are similar people around so it was not that much of a change. I am hungry for it, I want to be here and make a difference. It’s definitely a second chance and as I’ve said, I’m hungry for it, I want to be here and make a difference.”

Furthermore, as a lock, there are no downsides over the next few weeks in working with Paul O’Connell.

Ambitions

“He is great, great to me personally. Obviously I have grown up [watching him play] but he is always there with the answers that will make you a better player really, and enable you to fit in as quickly as possible, and limit that lag time in getting you up to speed.”

Treadwell lists the players he packed down alongside at Ulster and talks of being “a sponge” in his time with the province and now again in the Irish squad. Hence, his ambitions for this Six Nations are manifold.

“The next few weeks for me, if I’m not playing, are to get everyone ready to put their best performance out on the pitch but obviously I am hungry to play and I want to play.

“If you are not selected, there is obviously going to be a big disappointment. But then there is that transition to asking, ‘Right, what is my role here this week? Is it to prepare the team?’ Then that is what you need to do and if that means putting your ego to one side, then you do that. You want to be the best player and the best team-mate you can be.”