"The lads have been giving me a good bit of stick, James Lowe especially" 2 years ago

"The lads have been giving me a good bit of stick, James Lowe especially"

"I was just finishing them off."

Hugo Keenan is now a Test rugby player. He has also scored more tries for Ireland than Leinster.

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There were six changes in Ireland's starting XV, against Italy on Saturday, from the side that were beaten in the last Guinness Six Nations outing against England. Of all the changes mooted in the aftermath of that defeat, back in February, no-one would have predicted Hugo Keenan coming in wearing No.11.

Eight months ago, Keenan had played only 13 senior games for Leinster. He was one of those 50+ squad players the province were well used to deploying to put themselves into knock-out rugby positions while the internationals were off on their travels.

And yet here we are. Keenan started his first ever senior rugby game on the left wing and it was in the Six Nations against Italy. He scored two tries and did so well, in all aspects of the game, that cap number two should follow against France next week.

Following Keenan's try-scoring brace in Ireland's 50-17 win over the Azzurri, he needed little reminding that his only other try in the pro game was against Dragons in December 2018.

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"The lads have been giving me a good bit of stick, James Lowe especially. It is a nice to get that off my back."

Lowe, his Leinster teammate, will be Irish-qualified in time for the Autumn Nations Cup but Keenan has made the best possible start to his Test career and will hope to front up again when Andy Farrell's side take on France next weekend.

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Also likely to be in the mix is another Leinster teammate, Will Connors. The Kildare native won the TV accolade for Man of the Match and also scored highly in our player ratings.

"[Making my debut with Will] was incredible. He is one of my best mates, probably my best mate in rugby, so it was so cool. Our dads get on very well together and there is a good connection between the families.

"We made our European Cup debut at the same time against Saracens a month ago so we have come through the ranks together. It's really special to see him go so well and get man of the match with so many tackles and do what he does best. He deserves it."

The incredible journey of Keenan and Connors has taken a quick-step since rugby returned in August. The season will plough on after the Six Nations finalé, next weekend, but both players will be entitled to stop and smell the roses if Ireland can do the incredibly difficult and win in bonus point style next Saturday in Paris.


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