After the win over Scarlets at the start of March, Jack Conan could reflect on a successful period with his Leinster teammates.
The province finished the four-game window of Guinness PRO12 games during the Six Nations with four wins, taking 20 points from a possible 20, while scoring 178 points and 27 tries.
Conan featured for the full 80 minutes in every one of those games and also bagged himself two tries in the win away to Newport Gwent Dragons.
With the team on such a good run, the three-week break between the Scarlets win and this Saturday’s game at home to Cardiff Blues at the RDS Arena may have come at the wrong time as Leo Cullen’s men looked to continue their good form.
“I think we were really getting better and better every week, so if there was another run of games it would have been great to see what happened,” Conan said, speaking at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster School of Excellence in UCD last week.
“But in saying that, at the start of the block we knew we were building up for these four games massively so maybe we would have tapered off if we had have gone on again.
“We put maximum effort into the four weeks; we told ourselves ’20 out of 20′ and we went out and achieved that, which I thought was brilliant as lads were coming in and out of Irish camp and back into Leinster.
“Having young lads step up and go so well and the lads coming back from injury was massive as well, and the group that were there for those four games really dug deep and it showed.”
That run of victories has Leinster sitting atop the Guinness PRO12 table on 66 points – two ahead of Ospreys in second.
It also saw Leinster smash the PRO12 try scoring record – set at 73 by Cardiff Blues back in 2004 – notching up 76 so far, and there are still five games left to extend it further.
There is also the matter of the Champions Cup Quarter-Final at Aviva Stadium against Wasps on 1st April to contend with.
Ticket sales for the game are already well past the 40,000 mark as the mouth-watering tie between the two teams currently leading the way in the PRO12 and the Premiership edges closer.
While Leinster reached a PRO12 Final last season, the province went out of Europe at the pool stage.
Between securing a home European quarter-final and the team’s ruthlessness in attack there has been a definite improvement, something Conan puts down to the valuable experience young players gained last season – and their hunger to impress in the current campaign.
“The lads who were getting their chance last year have a bit more experience under their belt and I think they’re hungry for their opportunity as lads had been going so well, so they’d been waiting a while to get a bit of game time and they were hungry for it when it came.”
As for his own performances, the Wicklow man is just happy to be racking up the minutes – and tries – in a blue jersey.
“Yeah, I can’t complain. Going alright, once I’m playing I’m happy. I’ve been putting decent performances in back-to-back, which is probably something I lacked a bit in previous years – consistency. Some good games and then I wouldn’t be as efficient as the one before. I just think I’m playing with a bit more consistency and constantly doing things that are showing well so happy with the way I’m going at the moment.”
While his performances for Leinster did not lead to him pulling on a green jersey in the Six Nations this year, Conan was determined to learn as much as possible from his time in camp with the national side.
“You take the small bits, what it takes to step up from being a good player in the PRO12 or Champions Cup to being an international player. The windows of opportunity at international level are that bit smaller so even just training at that higher intensity and skill level makes you an all-round better player.”
There will be plenty more opportunities to prove himself with Leinster this season, with some big challenges ahead in Europe and in the PRO12.
The Ireland tour to Japan this summer is a definite goal, however, as Conan looks to continue to build upon the positives from this season.
“If I keep going the way I’m going I’ll be in the shop window for it. I can only control what I’m doing and I’m happy with the way I’m going. If I keep on going in the vein of form I’m in at the moment I’d like to think I’d be there.”
The Bank of Ireland Leinster School of Excellence returns this summer for its 20th year, with residential and non-residential places available for boys and girls aged 12-17. Visit leinsterrugby.ie/soe to learn more.