Jack Conan believes he is better placed to stake a claim for an Ireland shirt by starting in Guinness PRO12 action with Leinster rather than being an international benchwarmer.
The 24-year-old lined out at No 8 as Leinster returned to league action with a 26-point away win over Benetton Treviso last weekend, having been a part of Joe Schmidt’s original 40-man Six Nations squad before being released back to his province.
While the Old Belvedere clubman admits he is aiming for a more proactive role in green — he has failed to feature since his Test debut against Scotland in 2015 — Conan claims fringe internationals are better off keeping busy with provinces than twiddling their thumbs in international squads.
“I suppose it is for me,” said Conan when asked if playing in PRO12 action is more important than being Ireland’s ‘24th man’. If I was the 24th man for Ireland, I’d be delighted because you’re obviously that one step closer — but it’s impossible to get better when you don’t play.
“You’re never going to jump anyone in the queue if you’re only ever the 24th man or you’re not getting any minutes.
“In the game we played [last] weekend [against Treviso] we were rusty from not playing. So if you’re consistently not involved, even though you’re only one step away from it, it’s hard to anticipate the switch and be ready to the next week.
“So maybe that might change person to person, but for me personally I feel it’s always better to be getting rugby under the belt every week.”
The 24-year-old’s momentum was upset with ankle and foot injuries last season but he has impressed in recent months for Leinster, with his performances leading to speculation he would push for an Ireland place and talk that he may move elsewhere in a bid to further his career.
Such is the level of competition for a place in Schmidt’s backrow that Conan has not managed to break through, however, and the Dubliner admitted he was impressed with Ireland’s swashbuckling backline performance in the 53-point win over Italy.
“It just goes to show what the standard is,” said Conan. “It adds fuel to the fire to see those lads playing at a different standard.
Isa Nacewa is an injury concern for Friday’s PRO12 clash with Edinburgh at the RDS after twisting his knee in training, although Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty is hopeful the Blues captain will return to training tomorrow.
Joey Carbery, Dave Kearney, and Mike Ross are all set to train having featured against Treviso.
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