Lions Tour sees Jack Conan revise list of toughest tackles he's received
"I don't think Damo is top of the list anymore!"
Back in 2019, Jack Conan dropped into the House of Rugby studio for a chat on World Cups, playing tighthead prop, escaped zoo animals and GAA.
During the interview, Conan recalled that step up from top schools prospect and Leinster Academy hopeful to a fully-fledged All-Ireland League player.
"I was playing against a former coach of mine, from St Gerard's, a guy called Damien Hall who had played for Ireland Clubs a good few times at that stage. He was playing second row for Mary's. So, I got the ball off the top of the lineout and I went to run through and he absolutely cut me in half. It is still, to this day, one of the worst tackles I have ever taken. I was winded; lying on the ground, in bits."
A little over eight years on from that chastening, and bruising, experience, Conan has been forced to revise his list.
The Leinster and Ireland star maybe have been a surprise inclusion, for many, in the British & Irish Lions squad, back in April, but he has more than carried his weight. He performed well enough in the warm-up games to get a Test start against the Springboks, and was one of the stand-out Lions in that 22-17 victory.
Over the course of this long, long season, and on the tour, Conan has delivered a few rib-shuddering hits, and he has been on the receiving end of some too.
"I've had a few big collisions, I don't think Damo is top of the list anymore. None stick out to me but the entire tour has been incredibly physical. There was a few sore bodies on Sunday morning from the big hits and I'm sure it will be the same again."
One of the Springboks stars that was going around Cape Town, last Saturday, wading into tackles with all his considerable might was 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter Steph Du Toit.
Conan is revelling the opportunity to test himself against the likes of Du Toit, Eben Etzebeth and Jasper Wiese, who has been called in to start at 8 in the Second Test.
"Du Toit a world-class player. I don't think we had too many collisions together but he was at the forefront of a lot of things South Africa did.
"His link play for a big man, his vision is really good and he's definitely someone we have talked about during the week trying to nullify when he does get on the ball because we know the threat he brings."
"Wiese is a powerful young man," Conan added. "Physically he is very good. I have seen bits of him throughout the year in the Premiership and he was one of the leading ball carriers, so we know the physicality he is going to bring.
"I look forward to going up against him. The Springbok back-row is one of the best in the world, so it's going to be another big test for us."
Luckily for Conan, and the Lions, he is again paired up with two England back-rowers that he describes as freaks - Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry.
"I think we spoke afterwards, the three of us and we really all really enjoyed it. To be fair to the two lads, they are two incredible players... I thought we all complemented each other really well and we’re excited to have another crack at it this weekend."