Just turned 21, Andrew Conway is aiming to make the most of the early season opportunities that should come his way as Leinster bid to open the RaboDirect PRO12 season in good stead.
Andrew Conway is back to full fitness and has an obvious determination to impress the Leinster coaching staff during the opening weeks of the league campaign, before the province’s international players come back into the reckoning.
He first came to prominence as a schoolboy starlet with Blackrock College and 15 caps with the Ireland Under-20s followed. Notably he remains the joint-top try scorer in IRB Junior World Championship history, his ten-try tally matched that of New Zealand’s Zac Guildford.
Having avoided any niggles over a busy and productive pre-season period, Conway enjoyed starts at full-back and on the right wing in the recent friendly clashes with Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks respectively.
He was Leinster’s lone try scorer in the 10-10 draw with Sale last Friday and was pleased to put in a combative display with the RaboDirect PRO12 looming large on the horizon.
“I didn’t play the 80 minutes which I would have liked to get under my belt. I had to come off with a bit of a knock to my head and come back on with the new rule regarding concussion,” he explained.
“I got the all-clear and played for 70 minutes. I was happy enough to get that and also the week before (the Northampton game) under my belt going in the league proper.
“I had a good pre-season, it’s probably the first time I’ve put a good pre-season in and been injury free. It’s the best nick I’ve been in going into a season so I’m pretty happy.”
Conway and his Leinster team-mates have been benefiting from being on site full-time at UCD’s Belfield campus where the Heineken Cup champions have moved their training, conditioning and administration bases to this summer.
It is a move that the players have clearly welcomed, with the Dubliner adding: “It’s a good place to come back into and it’s a nice new set-up we have here in UCD.
“We really appreciate it, it’s done (us) the world of good…the change-up in the gym, the new facilities, training is really kicking on.”
Asked about his own aims and goals for the season ahead, it is clear that Conway is craving a good run in the Leinster back-three. He only made four starts during the 2011/12 campaign, two less than the previous year.
“I’m hoping to play a lot more. Last year I had a tough time with injuries and the time with the injuries didn’t go my way. I’m hoping to get a good run of games together and really put my hand up for selection for the rest of the year.
“It’s down to the individual, you have to be playing well to put your hand up because obviously with the squad we have and the internationals involved it’s stiff competition.
“With the internationals coming back over the next few weeks, the lads that are playing will really have to put their hand up and stake a claim for the jersey.”
Conway will be in the selection mix for Saturday’s league opener away to the Scarlets in Llanelli (kick-off 6.30pm), with Joe Schmidt reporting no major injury concerns arising from the Sale encounter.
Leinster have 11 fit international players unavailable for the opening rounds of the campaign and a further seven players (Luke Fitzgerald, Mark Flanagan, Conor Gilsenan, David Kearney, Sean O’Brien, Eoin O’Malley and Rhys Ruddock) ruled out through injury.
The team and replacements to face the Scarlets will be named on Friday and South African lock Quinn Roux could see action against the Welsh region. He has settled into the squad following his recent arrival from Super 15 duty with the Stormers.
Previewing the trip to Llanelli, Conway said: “Scarlets first up, it’s going to be tough. They have a lot of their internationals back. They have a young and exciting back-line with the likes of George North and Scott Williams and a few of their internationals are straight back into the mix.
“With the Scarlets being in our Heineken Cup pool, we’ll end up playing them four times this year. So this first game will be interesting, we’ll be testing each other out.
“They’ve got a new coaching team (led by former Ireland international Simon Easterby) so they’ll be changing it up a bit, you never know what type of game plan they’ll go for. It’s going to be a good test.”