What Jimmy O'Brien can learn from Andrew Conway to get to the next level
"Absolutely gutted for Andrew."
One of the toughest parts about Andrew Conway having to retire from professional rugby at 32 is the fact that he had the sort of game that would have stood to sides for the next three or four years.
Conway was be-set with knee issues in his final two seasons as a professional and was forced to call it a day, earlier this month, just over a week after he scored in his first Munster game of the 2023/24 season.
Speaking on this week's House of Rugby, former Munster player Johne Murphy spoke of the cruel blow that leaves Conway plotting his next steps in life after his playing career was cut short.
"I was absolutely gutted for Andrew," said Murphy. "I actually lived with him for two years, when he first came down to Munster. We'd be really good mates. Just gutted for him. I didn't realise [his ongoing injury issues] until the retirement news came out. I hadn't been talking to him for a few weeks - the last time I talked to him, I was congratulating him on getting to 150 caps [for Munster].
"He was a top-class player. In that last year we lived together, that first year at Munster under Axel Foley as head coach, he really made that [right wing] spot his own. He worked so hard on his basics and made that part of his game so strong - there was no-one better in the country, whether it was high ball receipt and his off the ball work ethic. He was similar to a rugby league winger - he was popping up everywhere across the pitch."
Murphy feels Munster will miss the character and leadership of Andrew Conway almost as much off the pitch as what he delivered as a player. "I can't speak highly enough of Conway, he was a great talent," he added.
Former Ireland star Lindsay Peat noted that 'to have such a talent retire at 32, when he had so much left in him, was very sad'. On a brighter note, Peat said, "For him to take the opportunities he was presented with - he worked so hard and we got to see the best of him - is something that doesn’t always happen for every professional athlete. That was lovely to see."
Later in the show, Peat spoke of an Ireland player that slotted into Conway's role seamlessly, and someone that will be eyeing a bigger breakthrough in 2024.
Lindsay Peat on Jimmy O'Brien form
Jimmy O'Brien had a couple of shoulder issues, during the recent World Cup, and he only got on the field for the quarter final game against New Zealand. He looked very bright in that outing and looks to have hit the provincial season running.
"Jimmy was exceptional when he came on against the All Blacks," said Peat. "His footwork and his willingness to do what he had to, to get Ireland on the front foot, stood out.
"He has used that confidence and experience, from his time in Ireland camp, and brought it back to Leinster, and it is lovely to see the fire in the belly of Jimmy, and some of the other lads."
Andrew Conway's willingness to work on his basics and work add to add extra wrinkles to his game is something both Paul O'Connell and Jerry Flannery praised the Dubliner for. It is a template O'Brien can implement into his own game if he wants to take his game to the next level.
🗣️ “He’s stood up and used that confidence to bring it back to Leinster.”
“It’s lovely to see fire in their belly.” 🔥@lilypeat11 on Jimmy O’Brien’s flying form for Leinster this season. pic.twitter.com/wfQK57Z0ot
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) November 13, 2023
Mack Hansen and James Lowe will take some budging, in 2024, but Jimmy O'Brien is on the right track and will be hoping to get a clear run of fitness and form to push those two lads for a starting Ireland spot.
JOHNE MURPHY AND LINDSAY PEAT ON HOUSE OF RUGBY
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