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‘It’s more about me trying to improve my carrying game’ – Leinster’s Will Connors tackling areas that have held him back
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‘It’s more about me trying to improve my carrying game’ – Leinster’s Will Connors tackling areas that have held him back

Hailing from a province where the ‘Sport of Kings’ reigns supreme, it is perhaps no surprise that his European bows have been filed under ‘horses for courses’ this season.

Even Toulouse coach Ugo Mola is boldly suggesting that Jacques Nienaber could once again influence the move to a 6/2 bench split against a French side in Europe, reinstalling Connors as an expert in tackling beasts like Emmanuel. Meafou.

The marauding lock’s extraordinary presence in the opening minutes of Le Stadium on Sunday, which attracted a group of impotent defenders unable to prevent the extended off-load, set up the early try that launched their final attack.

No one could stop him; Many think Connors could be the man to do this.

Those of us attuned to race guides know the importance of C&D (course and distance) – but you sense that the Donadea native no longer wants to be seen as a one-trick pony, not as a master of a singular craft, but as a jack of many.

His coaches are also confident that they are putting their faith in a player who is eager for a chance to show he is more than just a skilled chop tackler.

“I had the impression that I had to push harder on carrying to make it work,” he says about the contract extension talks that have started in recent weeks.

“It’s something I’ve been working on this year and it came to fruition in just a few games. It is something I will continue to drive and try to get better at.”

The quarter-final victory over La Rochelle is a good example of this; only his second appearance in Europe and both against Ronan O’Gara’s men.

Although he only completed 98 minutes, he was the fourth highest Leinster tackler in both matches, but he had much more to offer.

After all, it was his vibrant carry that prompted the opening penalty, and his blistering clean-out that opened up the opportunity for the opening try of the match.

No wonder he wants to give the “chop” stereotype the, em, chop.

“It doesn’t necessarily come from the coaches. It’s only when I sit here and have these conversations,” he says. “All I’m asked to do is chop tackle!”

Then again, his educational side project is a PhD on the safety of tackling in underage rugby, so please excuse the protracted research.

“I’m not exactly helping myself,” he smiles.

“I’ve come to see that the perception around me as a player is around the defensive area, around the chop-tackle.

“Honestly, the coaches have been good at instilling confidence in the carry and stuff.

“When I’m in these circles, a lot of it is about tackling heels. But I do support myself as a carrier. It’s just like anyone else. Everyone has areas they need to continue to work on and that’s something I need to continue to work on.”

When it comes to the final decision, one senses that Leinster won’t risk splitting the bench this time just to accommodate Connors; the stakes are simply too high.

All this was going through his mind when he decided to put pen to paper, trying to find the balance between reviving an international career – he has nine caps – without the security of a full-time provincial squad.

Connors made his debut on the same day as Hugo Keenan four years ago and played the next nine games, but injuries and lack of selection denied him while his teammate flourished.

​“Yes, it is difficult,” he says of his periodic European bows. “I fit into La Rochelle’s game to a certain extent. And then obviously it was hard to take out for the last game. But I think the margins are tight on all of this. It’s more about me trying to improve my carry game and make that a point of difference for me.

“And hopefully that will open up more opportunities in the future. The idea of ​​being a very strong defensive player is obviously something I’m very proud of. But continuing to work hard on my style of play and fitting into an attacking team is definitely something I want to continue to work on.

“It’s very difficult to find balance. Right now I’m playing around a bit. But when you move to that area, and I’ve been there before, if you don’t play much, it can be frustrating when you see those big games coming around the corner and you don’t see the idea that you fit in there. that image.

“If there comes a time when I don’t feel like I’m in the picture, you still have to have difficult conversations. And where else, in this country or abroad, do you fit in? Because everyone wants to play week in, week out. That is the reality.”

No matter how much he tries to establish a different identity, he will hardly give up his core qualities.

As his studies want to reaffirm, tackling is an essential part of his sport. Do you dare to say it, something beautiful?

“You see talk across the pond about possibly eliminating tackling in underage rugby and stuff, which I think would be very negative for the game.

“When done right, the tackle is the beauty of the game. That contact, waiting for people to impose themselves on the game.”

A thoroughbred looking for his next opportunity.