Con­way reaps re­ward of his holis­tic ap­proach

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby | Autumn Internationals - JOHN O’SUL­LI­VAN

A first start in his na­tive Dublin, a fourth cap and the open­ing lodge­ment in­scribed in his Test match try-scor­ing ledger en­sured that An­drew Con­way cut a re­laxed, smil­ing fig­ure as he con­sid­ered an evening’s work in the 38-3 vic­tory over South Africa.

The 26-year-old right wing demon­strates end­less pa­tience with re­gard to en­quiries as to why a school­boy star took a more cir­cuitous route to the na­tional team than what many en­vis­aged as the pre­or­dained path­way. He un­der­stands the line of ques­tion­ing and why peo­ple wonder about how his jour­ney to the na­tional team stalled in cul-de-sacs of per­for­mance re­lated is­sues.

Con­way is hon­est and forth­right about com­ing to terms with his own short­com­ings as a player and how he adopted a more holis­tic view of how he needed to change on and off the pitch to chase down his dream of play­ing for Ire­land. He cham­pi­ons the work of oth­ers to make him the player that he is, the ex­tra hours spent along­side Mun­ster backs’ coach Felix Jones; pass­ing and high ball work.

Mun­ster’s de­part­ing de­fence coach Jac­ques Nien­aber was equally gen­er­ous with time spent work­ing on the player’s tackle tech­nique and de­fen­sive reads. The ma­tu­rity of ex­pe­ri­ence has taught him a more even emo­tional keel.

“Two or three years ago there was prob­a­bly a shift in mind­set,” ad­mits Con­way. “I al­ways trained hard and did my weights but I prob­a­bly didn’t have the holis­tic side of it where I broke down my game and got in touch with coaches and put a plan to­gether to do ex­tras and try and im­prove in loads of dif­fer­ent facets.

Dili­gent and dis­ci­plined

“So it wasn’t that I wasn’t com­mit­ted to it be­fore. I just added a few dif­fer­ent pieces to it the last few years. I try to train as smart as I can and hard as I can on a weekly ba­sis. A few ex­tra pass­ing ses­sions, do some high-ball stuff with Felix and kick­ing, stuff with Jac­ques D-wise and just be­ing re­ally con­sis­tent with it.

“As the sea­son goes you pick up a few nig­gles, it is a rainy day in December and the easy op­tion when you have been do­ing a few ex­tras on the Wed­nes­day and the body is tired is to think ‘ah,no, I’m ac­tu­ally grand’. One of the big things is be­ing dili­gent and dis­ci­plined enough to stick those things out; al­ways do the bits planned and in place and not go off task as the sea­son goes on. That’s prob­a­bly one of the things that helped me a lot.

“One of the things I have learned is not to get too up­pity with the big wins and not too low with the loss or the in­jury or what­ever it might be, loss of form. As long as you are work­ing hard and stick­ing to your pro­cesses it will come back. You grow with age. I’m de­lighted with how it went for us as a team and for my­self.”

Con­way rel­ishes the chal­lenge of the na­tional camp, con­stantly been chal­lenged and the mas­sive em­pha­sis placed on play­ers to be pitch-per­fect in know­ing their roles on both sides of the ball. Un­like the pro­vin­cial scene the scope to fine tune is fi­nite and ev­ery minute in pre­cious in pre­par­ing for a Test match.

Con­way ex­plains: “There is a very spe­cific way we play and there is so much de­tail in­volved with all the set plays and moves. There is a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity on the play­ers to be all over that. It’s tough, don’t get me wrong.

“You’re watch­ing video, hav­ing chats, con­stantly re­fin­ing changes. Joe will see some­thing in a video maybe one day and he’ll change up the move so you are con­stantly on your toes, but that is how we want it to be. It is a tough en­vi­ron­ment to train in be­cause he is on you and on you; that’s what he wants.

“I’d as­sume this is his thought process, when you go out there you have had so much pres­sure put on you men­tally Mon­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day, that you get a bit of free­dom when you are out on the pitch, let the shack­les off a bit.

“As long as you are do­ing your de­tail, know your de­tail com­ing into it, you can play. Some­times they’ll call a run play from five me­tres out if that is where the space is. It’s tough but re­ally good to play un­der.”

So what about the try? “It was a strange one. It was a bit of a hot potato and I went to grab it with a few of the South Africans. It kind of just opened up and I knew from about 15 [me­tres] out that I was go­ing to get it in the cor­ner, so it was a nice feel­ing.”

An­drew Con­way: cham­pi­ons the work of oth­ers in help­ing him suc­ceed

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