Saturday, March 2, 2024

Jack Conan insists Ireland are not looking past Wales test amid Grand Slam talk

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Jack Conan acknowledges history-chasing Ireland could “fall flat on our face” if they become sidetracked by talk of successive Grand Slam titles.

Andy Farrell’s men are seeking to become the first side in the Guinness Six Nations era to complete consecutive championship clean sweeps.

Bonus-point victories over pre-tournament favourites France and perennial wooden spoon winners Italy have propelled the defending champions into pole position for more glory.

Winless Wales travel to Dublin in round three on February 24 before Ireland face further Triple Crown fixtures against England and Scotland next month.

Leinster back-rower Conan, who claimed the third of six tries in Sunday’s 36-0 demolition of the Azzurri, said: “I don’t think there’s a cautious excitement; there are just expectations within the group of what we do with the moment in front of your face.

“Before this week, there was no chat of Wales, Scotland, England, anything like that; it was Italy, Italy, Italy.

“That was all that mattered to us and that will be the case next week. It will all be about Wales.

“It’s great people outside of the environment (are excited about a potential Grand Slam), they can have that buzz all they want, but if we don’t go out and get the job done against Wales then we kind of fall flat on our face.

“We’re not looking at all past that, we’re not looking past the moment in front of our faces and just being present.

“It doesn’t always happen and there were loads of mistakes (against Italy) but I think it’s a pretty good starting point where we’re at at the moment.”

Head coach Farrell has received regular praise for creating an enjoyable environment in the Ireland camp.

Conan believes a selflessness among the group has been key to recent successes, including the 2022 tour victory in New Zealand and last year’s Grand Slam.

“The needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few so it’s important to fit in and do the role you’ve been asked to do,” said Conan, who has often been a replacement during that period.

Andy Farrell has created an enjoyable environment in the Ireland camp
Andy Farrell has created an enjoyable environment in the Ireland camp Andy Farrell has created an enjoyable environment in the Ireland camp (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We’re very lucky that there are such good men in the group and good quality that no matter what is asked of people they do it and there’s no complaints.

“It’s an incredibly selfless group and you do what your team-mates and coaching staff ask of you.

“I think it’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful over the last few years because everyone wants to add to the value of the group.”

Number eight Conan on Sunday made his first Test start since suffering a foot injury against Italy last August, which limited his World Cup participation.

The 31-year-old British and Irish Lion, who made his international debut in 2015 but has been restricted to 43 caps, partly due to fitness setbacks, is determined to savour the remainder of his career.

Jack Conan represented the British and Irish Lions in 2021
Jack Conan represented the British and Irish Lions in 2021 Jack Conan represented the British and Irish Lions in 2021 (Steve Haag/PA)

“For all the things I’ve ever done, whether it’s Leinster or playing for the Lions, it is the greatest honour to play for your country and it’s definitely something that’s not lost on me,” Conan said.

“I try to relish every moment I’m out there, no matter how blowing you are or how tough it is, it’s something that comes and goes so quickly and I’ve had a lot of gaps in my career where I haven’t played.

“I’ve been in and out of teams. I have, by my own admission, under performed at times and you’ve just got to savour it when you get the opportunity and make the most of it.”

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