Ulster's Treadwell to make most of last chance to impress Schmidt
If positives from this Ulster season have been few and far between, Kieran Treadwell is one player who has been a pleasant surprise.
Having arrived from Harlequins in the summer, where he played last season while also turning out for London Scottish on a dual-registration basis, it took a while for the 6'7'' lock to find his feet but today's game against Leinster (5.15pm kick-off) will be a seventh consecutive start in the Ulster engine room.
Having formed a promising partnership with Alan O'Connor in recent weeks, Treadwell admits that his late season flourish is the result of his work with the province's coaching staff both on the pitch and in the gym.
"The coaching staff were massive for me, working with Les Kiss and Allen Clarke, but the S&C (strength and conditioning) guys too," he said.
"There was a lot of talk with Les before I signed and it has come to fruition now I'm getting a lot of opportunities.
"Speaking to Les he said 'you have got to work hard, it is not given to you' and I feel I have put in a lot of work.
"The facilities and the coaching staff here were massive for me. Personally when I arrived and played back to back games, it was tough because I hadn't really played at that level for that amount of games before.
"The players I have had around me have really helped me too. When I first came here Dan Tuohy came up to me and was just 'like anything you want to go through, let's do it', and Franco (van der Merwe) as well.
"I am just going to be like a sponge to anyone that has advice for me, I'm still young and have got time to grow."
Although English-born, Treadwell is Irish-qualified through his mother and has already trained with the national set-up at an extended gathering at Carton House over Christmas.
With Iain Henderson on Lions duty, Ultan Dillane injured, and Donnacha Ryan bound for France, there seems to be an opening in the second-row for Ireland's upcoming tour to America and Japan, and Treadwell has been in recent contact with head coach Joe Schmidt.
"I have had some personal feedback from Joe about stuff to work on," he said.
"(The summer tour) is in my thoughts but I just have to give my all in every game I can. This is our last game of the season and I just want to perform and give everything."