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'I'm not holding my breath': What Jack Conan said 15 days ago when asked about his Lions chances

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leading Irish club Leinster had four players chosen in Warren Gatland’s 2021 Lions tour squad – but two of the faces – Jack Conan and Andrew Porter – weren’t names that had been tripping off tongue in the speculation leading into the announcement.  

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James Ryan was a huge casualty, as was Johnny Sexton and to a lesser extent Garry Ringrose given that the Lions had lost George North to injury some weeks ago and Manu Tuilagi hasn’t played since September.

Porter, though, was a huge winner, getting chosen to travel at tighthead with England’s Kyle Sinckler, a 2017 Lions tourist, omitted. Back row, however, was the most competitive area for Lions selection and the little fancied Conan had figured in pratically none of the pre-squad announcement speculation. 

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Ex-Springboks midfielder Jean de Villiers guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Ex-Springboks midfielder Jean de Villiers guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

His Guinness Six Nations selection to face England in March as the Ireland No8 was the first start he had for his country since a September 2019 World Cup warm-up versus Wales, injury and some iffy form counting against him in the interim 18 months. 

However, he excelled against the English and was also to the fore in Leinster’s Guinness PRO14 final win over Munster and their Heineken European Champions Cup quarter-final victory at Exeter prior to last Sunday’s semi-final exit versus La Rochelle.

Conan won’t be long overcoming that disappointment in France, though, after he became one of eight Ireland players chosen by Gatland for the Lions, a call-up that the back-rower wasn’t contemplating on April 21 when asked would he dare dream of a tour call-up.

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“It’s very much focusing on the here and now,” said the 28-year-old, who has 20 Test caps. “It’s not something I am worrying about or thinking too much about. At the end of the day, it would be fantastic to go but I am not holding my breath, it’s not something I am losing too much sleep over. I am just worrying about Leinster and the next game. It’s difficult enough to get into that Leinster back row. That’s the only place that my thoughts are going to at the moment.  

“It’s great to be back,” he added, describing his return to form following a frustrating period. “It’s good to be able to contribute and add value to the (Leinster) jersey and be back with your mates. It is never the same when you are not able to go out and get into the trenches with them and put your body on the line. 

“I have been loving it the last while. It has been an absolute joy regardless of results, it has just been good to be back playing with your mates. Wearing the Leinster jersey it doesn’t get any more special than that.” 

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