‘Narrative’ is not a word that pops up too often in media interviews, but Andrew Conway had it locked and loaded when he sat down for a sponsor’s event in Dublin.
First was the, yes, narrative, that he felt surrounded the win over Scotland on matchday one: “You’d swear we lost it”, and then came the contrasting coverage after the win over Wales: “Now, we are probably going to be the best team in the world for a week or two.”
Then, the Munster winger claims, what happens against England in Twickenham will dictate what is written after that match.
It’s almost as if performances and results can change and that can be reflected in print.
“We won’t be getting too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.
It’s funny reading a lot of the stuff after the Scotland game, but that’s the narratives that are driven a lot of the time.
“I think not getting too concerned about the narratives that were out there post Scotland [is key], we weren’t all thinking that we were in dire straits. Now after a good win against Wales we are not thinking that we are world beaters.
“It’s trying to remain somewhere in the middle and realise we are on the right path, on a good path, we got new guys in and we have to keep looking forward and work hard.”
Conway earned rave reviews after his performance against Wales, and rightly, he’s keeping his feet firmly on the ground after such positive narratives, but he was less impressed with earlier coverage of the scrum-half selection battle.
Conor Murray v John Cooney — clickbait heaven as far as the former Leinster man was concerned.
“Again, we go back to the narrative of you guys driving the narrative of John Cooney playing well,” he said.
“It’s good reading, it’s a good story to have. One guy playing well up north, another guy’s with Munster who are struggling.
I’m not saying you’re making things up but it sells papers I assume. It’s good clickbait.
“Conor has obviously taken it on board and has worked really hard and played really well in the last few games.
“Cooney and Luke McGrath have been playing really well also. People react differently to those types of criticisms. Some people go into their shells, some work a bit harder.
“Conor is a world-class player. But you’re not going to be playing world-class every week. That’s not how it works.
“Whenever people perform below that absolutely world-class ability they have, and a rival is playing well at the same time, and kicking goals, that is going to be driven.
“It ended up growing a few legs and becoming a popular debate. And I’m not saying it was an unfair debate. It isn’t.
“Because John was playing some world-class stuff and that’s a fact. But it has definitely driven Conor on to shut a few people up.”
Peter O’Mahony, Conway’s skipper in red, was another player to fall victim of the ‘will-he-be-dropped-or-not’ clickbait mania, although the Cork man was, in fact, dropped by Andy Farrell for the opening game against Scotland.
He came on after four minutes when the unfortunate Caelan Doris was injured on his debut and has impressed since — no surprise to Conway.
“It’s brilliant, it was some reaction to being on the bench, probably the first time in a long time for Ireland,” he said.
It shows a lot of character to react from being on the bench. You wouldn’t have realised from his performance that he had been on the bench all week.
“He’s a real leader in the group. He showed some serious leadership quality and then coming off the bench after four minutes, having a great game and backing that up was incredibly impressive. He’s a big moments player and he’s getting more involvements, that’s a fair summation. He gets turnovers at crucial times, wins those key lineouts.”
Conway enjoyed more action himself on Saturday, and could make three successive Ireland starts for the first time in his career if he’s picked against England.
“I haven’t watched it back yet but going from the feel of the day I was quite happy,” he said. “I have a lot more involvements, both sides of the ball, in attack and defence, a few kicks in there and chased hard; I missed a couple of tackles and could still get my hands on the ball a bit more, in attack add value a bit more, work a bit smarter to pop up in positions that I can be more effective in.
“It was a good day, a good team performance for the majority of it.”
A good day — that’s the narrative. Until the next game.