Huge praise for Andy Farrell's man management
INTERVIEW: Ireland back row Jack Conan credits Andy Farrell and his coaching staff for filling him with “confidence” by telling him despite a foot ligament injury they were keeping him in the World Cup squad.
Their support allayed the fears of the 31-year-old British and Irish Lion that he would see a second successive World Cup campaign come to an end with an early flight home.
Conan suffered a stress fracture in his foot in their opening 2019 pool win over Scotland – the same side he hopes he will make his first appearance of this World Cup against on Saturday week.
Victory for Ireland over the Scots, who have lost their last eight Tests against the Irish, would ensure they top Pool B and probably face New Zealand in the quarterfinals.
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“I tore a few ligaments in my foot against Italy,” Conan said referring to the warm-up match on August 5.
“Then I was coming back from that and ended up over-compensating with other bones in my foot and got bone bruising.
“There was definitely a stage where I thought: ‘this is me, I’m cooked’. Three or four weeks’ ago, I thought I was going home.”
However, in line with the tone Farrell has set since he replaced Joe Schmidt as head coach after the 2019 World Cup there was tea and sympathy for Conan rather than a wave goodbye at the team hotel.
“To get pulled aside and to say: ‘Look, we’re going to keep you on, we know you’re going to get better, we going to give you the time you need’ filled me with a lot of confidence,” said Conan, who was selected ahead of Cian Prendergast and Gavin Coombes.
“It took the edge off me a little bit.
“I was able to relax and just focus on getting better and not be worrying that they’re going to send me home or anything like that.
“In fairness to Cian and Gav, the two of them had incredible pre-seasons and I’m grateful they were patient with me.”
The 39-times capped Conan said he had a sense of deja vu when he went to hospital in France for scans.
“I had flashbacks to sitting in some random Japanese hospital in the middle of nowhere with Ciaran [Ruddock, Ireland’s assistant athletic performance coach] four years’ ago, with Ciaran again, and I was saying: ‘Surely not? Doing it all again in the exact same spot?'” said Conan.
“Thankfully, this one’s had a far better outcome.”
Conan said it is wonderful to be back training with the ball in his hands rather than “flogging myself on the rower or in the gym.”
The Leinster loose-forward is also keen to play for another reason.
“It’s a lot more easier on the heart than it is sitting in the stands,” he said.