Tom McCartney is studying Rory Best to improve his own game
Hooker knows the significance of Connacht beating Glasgow and finishing in the top six of the Pro12
New Zealand-born Tom McCartney is one of Connacht’s more seasoned players. Photograph: James Crosbie.
As Connacht face one of their most daunting challenges against Pro12 leaders Glasgow on Saturday, McCartney, now one of the province’s senior players, says he’s been studying the Ireland and Ulster hooker to try to improve his own game.
The 28-year-old’s accurate darts have been a feature of Connacht’s lineout since his arrival, but it is Best’s work at the breakdown McCartney has been examining ahead of the visit of Gregor Townsend’s league pacesetters.
“The set piece has been going really well and that, with the scrum, is the foundation of a frontrower’s game,” he says.” But you don’t play rugby just to throw in the lineout and be done with it.
“Getting out there and having as much of an impact on the game is what it is all about – disrupting at the breakdown, moving bodies, and being physical around the field.
“That’s why you spend time in the gym. You don’t just want to look good on the beach, you want to put it out there,” the former Auckland Blues man says.
Alongside prop Denis Buckley, the two have been working to become a real menace at the breakdown, which will again play a key role against Glasgow’s powerful and efficient pack.
“I would like to have more of an impact at the breakdown and with the ball in hand. Denis Buckley has been outstanding outstanding in the tackles, and I have looked at some of my game, and even at how Rory Best was against us. He’s a real menace, so I have been looking at how he does things and would look to try to bring that into my game a little more.”
Capped 64 times for the Blues, McCartney believes he must set an example to Connacht’s youngsters, particularly in a pack that is likely to contain two academy players on Saturday due to injuries.
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“Myself, Ali Muldowney and John Muldoon will have to go out there and have really good games. It’s not about doing anything over the top, but being solid, leading by example, and if we can do that, hopefully the younger guys will feed off that.
“The reason you get to the business end of the season is because of the good things you have done before, so it’s about doing that and doing it better.
“Against Glasgow we will have to be right on top of our game, not too much change, but it will start with the set-piece – the things you can control.
“Nothing has to majorly change because at the end of the day it’s still a game of footy and it starts with the basics.”
McCartney, a stranger to European Cup rugby until this season, says his new club is now in a special position and must make it count.
“I didn’t know too much about Champions Cup rugby, but having come here, you learn about the history of Connacht and what it would do for the province, and to get that sixth position would be awesome.”