Will Connors locks down No.7 jersey with two rapid succession plays
"What's Porridge's name again?"
Back in February 2018 and James Lowe interrupted his own post-match press briefing to clarify the name of the young No.7 that he had just played with. Will Connors, he was told.
Just over three years later and both men were lining out for an Ireland team in desperate need of a Six Nations kick-start against Italy. When all was said and done, Connors had finished with two tries while Lowe was lamenting a forward pass call than denied him the score his performance merited.
Connors was drafted into the Ireland back row, last year, after a string of impressive performances for Leinster. While Leo Cullen was using Connors and Josh van der Flier on a week-on, week-off basis, Andy Farrell settled on the Kildare native and gave him two straight starts at No.7 as the 2020 Six Nations concluded.
He was excellent against Italy but outgunned against France and dropped back to the bench for the start of the Nations Cup. He got another start against Georgia but failed to impose himself on proceedings and was back to biding his time.
Van der Flier got in ahead of him for this year's Six Nations opener and held onto the openside role for France's visit to Dublin. He was very good in Cardiff and good against Les Bleus, but Farrell reckoned Connors deserved another look against Italy.
The Leinster back-row needed to prove there was more to him than the chop tackle, and he did by scoring two tries and showing up well in attack. Indeed, Connors now has more Ireland tries [three] than he has for Leinster [two].
That being said, the 24-year-old looked after the bread and butter of his game superbly well. He stuck all 14 of his tackles (missing none) and was second only to the insatiable James Ryan for tackles made.
There was also this outstanding chop tackle, speed-to-feet and breakdown steal after 21 minutes of the match that showed exactly what he was all about.
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) February 27, 2021
The Connors chop tackle is a joy to behold but it was his hunger to get back up and contest the ball, after making the initial hit that will have Ireland defence coach Simon Easterby, and head coach Andy Farrell, salivating.
Following the 48-10 win over the Azzurri, Ireland captain Johnny Sexton commented:
"You know what you are going to get with Will. His chop tackles, he is a brilliant ball player and you probably haven't seen enough of that, but you saw glimpses tonight. He was outstanding."But I think you can look across the park. Everyone stood up today."
As for that James Lowe comment (below), he sure knows who 'Porridge' is now and exactly what he's about.
Never forget the time James Lowe forgot a young Will Connors’ name pic.twitter.com/qhdbo4WtA2
— Will Owen (@will_owen9) February 27, 2021
That No.7 jersey should be his for Ireland's next game out, against the Scots at Murrayfield.