Tom McCartney: I’d love to put on Irish jersey

Tom McCartney admits he hopes to be part of Ireland’s 2019 World Cup squad, after he signed a new three-year deal with Connacht.

The New Zealand-born hooker, who becomes eligible to play for Ireland next November, pointed to the youthful make-up of the Connacht squad as one of the chief reasons behind his decision to remain at the Sportsground, plus the 31-year-old has set his sights on international honours.

“When I first signed, I was a bit reluctant to talk about it [international selection] because it was such a long way away. Anything could happen and it is starting to get a little bit closer now. I’d love the opportunity to put on the jersey, but there are guys there who have done an awesome job of late.”

He revealed: “I talk to Joe [Schmidt] a little bit. Nothing recently, but I’ve known Joe for quite a while. All I can do is play as well as I can for Connacht and, if I’m good enough, then hopefully he picks me.”

McCartney, who played under Pat Lam in Auckland, said he was shocked to hear of his coach’s move to Bristol, but the potential of the squad meant he was happy to stay.

“It was a bit of a shock for a lot of us, but at the end of the day, this squad that we’ve got here, all the young players, just everything that has been around the club, everything Pat’s instilled, all the systems are in place, I think going forward we are in a really strong place. I’ve really enjoyed working with Pat and I’ve known him for a long time. I’ll miss him, but I think we have still got a really strong future here at the club.

“My heart was always wanting to stay at Connacht. At the end of the day, I was just really happy to get the deal done. It has lived up to all my expectations since I first signed. It has been a great journey and has been special to be involved with Connacht for the last three years. I am really enjoying things and my family is enjoying it. I’m enjoying my rugby and just an opportunity to carry that on.”

Meanwhile, Lam dismissed suggestions the controversy surrounding their win over Wasps has taken away from the achievement.

“No, not at all. As everyone says, we play what’s in front of us. It is really nothing to do with us, absolutely nothing to do with us.

“We asked the question, we got the answer. If the ref said: ‘No, you can’t kick the ball out’, then we would tap it and we will go for the corner. That decision didn’t win us the game.”

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