Will Connors travelled down to Limerick at the weekend with his name on top of Leinster’s dominant tackle chart back at their Dublin training centre and it would not be a surprise to see the flanker remain there following another robust performance in their defeat of Munster.
Connors, 23, capped an excellent week for himself that began with a spot in Andy Farrell’s training squad at the 24-hour Ireland mini-camp in west Dublin, by chopping Munster down to size with 23 tackles and none missed at Thomond Park on Saturday as the Guinness PRO14’s defending champions stretched their unbeaten record in all competitions this season to 13 wins from 13.
It was a defensive tour de force from the former Clongowes student, highlighted by a crunching tackle under the Leinster posts in tandem with Sean Cronin on Munster’s Darren O’ Shea that did not go unnoticed by head coach Leo Cullen.
“He is non-stop,” Cullen said of Connors. “With (contact skills coach) Hugh Hogan, the work they put in with the back-rowers is reaping the rewards really.
“It's not rocket science but they really do scrutinise everything that they are doing – line speed, how they get off the line, body profile, shape going into the tackle, their work on the contact in terms of poaching on the ground as well.
“They are working away in little mini-groups. Some guys are seeing the benefits of it on the field.”
For Connors, in particular, they are plain to see with Cullen praising his chop tackling and more besides.
“In terms of his chop tackling, yeah. Whatever about chop tackling, his ability to be then able to hit through guys as well means he is very dominant in some of his contact work.
“There was lots of traffic coming down his channel and his line speed coming off the line forces opposition tens that little bit deeper as well.
“It's another good step for Will. I think he has played in some tricky games – Connacht away, Glasgow away, here away and he has gone well in those games.
“So, he is not a million miles off taking that next step. Obviously getting recognition going into camp as well plus a number of guys. It's pleasing to see that as well.”
Team-mate, hooker Sean Cronin is another impressed by Connors’ work-rate and tackle technique.
“I think the difference with Will is that he gets low but I think it’s his acceleration at the contact point is probably what sets him apart. The Glasgow game over there, watching on TV, it’s his timing as well, so gets low, his timing is good and then his acceleration to make the hit is something probably that sets him apart.
“He’s had a really impressive year. We have a little stat board inside about dominant tackles throughout the season and I think he’s top of it anyway at the moment. Another really competitive area in the team so when guys get their chance they have to really take it with the competition that’s there.”