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Tony Ward Calls For Continually Impressive Jack Conan To Start For Ireland

Tony Ward Calls For Continually Impressive Jack Conan To Start For Ireland
By Mikey Traynor

Were it not for the back-row positions being somewhere that Ireland have been spoiled for choice in recent years, Jack Conan would have far more than the four caps he currently has for his country.

At Leinster he has been a fan favourite for some time now having established himself as someone who can be relied upon to put in man of the match performances on a regular basis, however, his form at the start of the Pro 14 season has been so impressive that some are planning the future of Irish rugby with Conan at the heart of it.

One of them is Tony Ward, a former coach of Conan's at St.Gerard's School, who believes it is time for Jamie Heaslip and CJ Stander to take a back-seat and allow the 25-year-old to flourish in the number eight position.

In his regular column for the Independent, Ward praised Conan for his role in Leinster's resounding win over the Cardiff Blues on Friday, and picked him in his starting back-row for the Autumn internationals.

I like the pragmatist in Cullen and afterwards he called it spot on when describing the collective performance as "poor".

That said there were positives. Individually, Barry Daly in terms of impact, Jordan Larmour on limited opportunity, Luke McGrath, Cian Healy, Devin Toner and Jack Conan stood out.

Conan's time is here and with the greatest of respect to Jamie Heaslip and CJ Stander, Conan should be packing down in the middle of the Irish back-row against the Springboks and Pumas come November.

Indeed in some ways picking the back-row at Leinster is going to be more difficult than doing so for Ireland. At this distance it would be Stander at No 6, Sean O'Brien 7 and Conan at 8 for me in green.

Conan was man of the match against Cardiff as his level of performance never dropped even when the result was no longer in question, and this is not something new either, as he has done it time and again over the past 12 months in particular.

Jamie Heaslip returning from injury will present Leo Cullen with a decision to make at 8 for Leinster, but Joe Schmidt must also be pondering if now really is Conan's time as Tony Ward has suggested.


Then you have to factor in Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander, both of whom have been absolutely massive for Ireland in recent campaigns, but the fact that Conan is knocking on the door shows how highly he is regarded, and although he has time on his side at just 25, he may not need it.

You can read Tony Ward's column in full over on Independent.ie.

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