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Conan knows he must improve to get into Schmidt's Test plans


By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Jack Conan was not shy about saying that he was aiming to make a big impression for Ireland this season and he is not backing away from a disappointing November either.

The Leinster No.8 finished last season in flying form and continued his trajectory into this campaign, but when the internationals rolled around he had to be content with a run-out against Fiji.

CJ Stander got the nod for both of the games against Tier One opposition and when Conan found out he wasn't getting a run against the South Africans, he sought out some feedback before leaving the camp.

Tackle effectiveness and work around the ruck are the two things he was told to work on over the course of the next eight weeks before the Six Nations looms into view.

And the next two weeks, when Leinster take on Exeter Chiefs back-to-back, would appear to be a prime opportunity to put some of those lessons to good use.

"If I'm honest and self-critical, they are the areas I need to improve on," said Conan.

"I do that myself, but it is just a bit more real when you get it from a coach.

"It is something I do need to improve on, I am not a million miles off but the margins in international rugby are so small so you know if you are not as effective in the tackle as you need to be that teams can offload, push to the line and cause line-breaks.

"I took it on the chin, it is an opportunity for me to be better. It is constructive and hopefully over the next few weeks I will get to show Joe (Schmidt) and the rest of the coaching staff that I have done a bit of work on it and tried to improve.

"It mightn't happen all of a sudden but if I get that right I will be in a better position if I am selected for the Six Nations squad."

Conan is fully aware of what he needs to work on and says he needs to stop himself from switching off during games.

"Ireland is obviously extremely tough and the standard is so high, it just makes you realise you need to constantly improve and you need to be constantly working on yourself," he said.

"Those criticisms - you can't let it be a deterrent or affect you, take away your confidence or anything like that, it is an opportunity to get better.

"It is about adding to what is already there, my carrying ability, my offload, things like that but a few extra per cent in a few categories will make a big difference and just be a bit more all-round. It's small margins and just little things.

"I'd be guilty at times of tapping out mentally and just being a bit of a passenger and just watching the game... it's just concentration, staying in the moment, picking up on cues when tackling players, how they carry the ball... just working earlier on getting set and getting off the line, making sure my feet are planted and that I get in a dominant hit. It's not this drastic change at all, it's small things, and staying in the moment for me.

"There's a lot of physical and technical work, but a lot of it is mental as well so I can work on and off the pitch on it.

"I'm pretty confident that if I can just tip away at it slowly and make steady improvements week to week, I should be in a good spot.

"It's not something that's just new."

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