Try machine Jack Conan enjoying being back in thick of it

‘I’m on a bit of an up at the moment and it’s a long time coming,’ says Leinster man

As that rarity, a professional rugby-playing product of St Gerard’s, Jack Conan’s repeat try-scoring exploits in the blue of Leinster, having done so for Ireland a week before against England, shed a positive and timely light on his alma mater after recent developments.

The tries have arrived a little like buses, his first for Leinster since the pool win over Toulouse here in January 2019 following his first for Ireland since scoring against France in March 2019.

After the injury woes which ended his World Cup before it started and the way his rejuvenation has continued apace, one imagines Conan would happily play the upcoming last 16 Champions Cup game tomorrow if obliged to do so.

“I don’t know if I’d physically be able to play again tomorrow, I took a few heavy collisions out there,” admitted Conan after his man-of-the-match performance. “But yeah, look, I’m on a bit of an up at the moment and it’s a long time coming, so it’s nice to be back in a decent vein of form.


"I think the standard here and the competition in the backrow pushes you to be at your best," admitted Conan, a valid point when considering Scott Penny joined Caelan Doris and Will Connors on the injured list.

“I definitely feel I’m going all right but in saying that, I gave away a stupid penalty late on in the first half to level it up at six-all, so always room to be better.”

Giving an insight into Leister’s relentless pursuit of trophies, Conan added: “I think it’s just our mindset. We go out there to win every moment in front of our face and we’re incredibly proud to play for this club, incredibly proud to play in the RDS and as finals go it doesn’t get much bigger than playing your local rivals in the RDS.

“Obviously it’s a weird few weeks, lads come back in from international camp, there’s been lads who have been slogging away doing unbelievable work since we’ve been gone.

“So it’s tough to fit back in and pick up from where you left off and be able to build on it, but I think we put in a great 80 minutes today.

“Bar a few undisciplined moments, from myself included in the first 40 minutes, I think we looked defensively really strong out there.

“I think we left a few scores out there, we could have punished them a few more times, but it’s a testament to how hard they work and how dogged they are that they don’t give up.

“So I think we’re pretty happy with where we are after that 80 minutes, but there’s another few massive weeks to come here at the club.”

The prize for beating Toulon next Friday would be an away quarter-final, most likely against the holders Exeter a week later.

“It’s great to have Toulon, someone we haven’t played against in four or five years, I think, they’re coming to the RDS and that will be an absolutely massive challenge.

“They’ve got a huge pack and their ability to muscle up and front up is one of the best in Europe. So we’re under no illusions how hard that’s going to be, especially with the short turnaround, so it’s going to be a big test for the club and in the coming days we’ll recover well and get back to the drawing board on Monday morning.”

Ultimately, one ventures that Leinster’s six-day turnaround before facing Toulon will be easier to negotiate with another piece of silverware in their burgeoning cupboard than Munster’s seven-day turnaround before hosting Toulouse without one for a decade.

“We’ll look to build on this performance,” said Conan. “We want to win everything we can, we want to win every single game in every competition we’re in and that doesn’t change, it’s even more important this week.

“We haven’t been at the level we want to be at in the last two years in Europe, so it’s a massive opportunity in the RDS to put in a good performance against a good French side and hopefully progress.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times