Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has admitted that Jack Conan tackled him so hard in training that he convinced him to retire from rugby.
Conan made his senior Leinster debut in February 2014, just three months before Cullen decided to hang up his boots at the age of 36.
The two didn’t spend much time training together during their playing careers as a result, but the recently-capped British and Irish Lions number eight made a lasting impression on Cullen in that short space of time.
The Leinster head coach was speaking at a press conference ahead of his side’s pre-season friendly against Harlequins on Friday and admitted that Conan was instrumental in his decision to retire seven years ago.
Leo Cullen on Jack Conan.
“He’s such a talented footballer, Jack. He’s had some real niggly injuries at different stages, at very bad times for him, so he never quite pushed on in terms of the international stage,” Cullen said, via the Irish Examiner.
“We see it all the time here, what a quality footballer Jack is. I remember when he was younger, an academy player here, coming through, and I was still playing at the time, and he hit me in training and I was like ‘I think I need to stop playing rugby now’.
“He’s such a big physical specimen. He was my cue ‘OK I can’t really carry on’. He’s such a quality footballer, so skilful for his size, so it was great to see him do so well.”
🏟️ | 𝙁𝙍𝙄𝘿𝘼𝙔 𝙉𝙄𝙂𝙃𝙏𝙎 𝘼𝙍𝙀 𝘽𝘼𝘾𝙆 🎆
Leinster begin their 2021/22 season this Friday against Harlequins at Aviva Stadium.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) September 7, 2021
The Lions number eight is set for a big season.
Conan was a somewhat surprise inclusion in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad, given that he only started in one game for Ireland in this year’s Six Nations due to injury problems.
Gatland clearly liked what he saw from Conan while on tour in South Africa, as he was selected to start in all three tests against the Springboks.
The 29-year-old has had numerous injury problems throughout his career and has amassed 20 caps for Ireland to date, a relatively low tally given his talent and age.
This season presents a brilliant opportunity for him to lock down Ireland’s number eight jersey, however, and should he remain injury free he will be expected to be Andy Farrell’s go-to man off the back of the scrum for the tests ahead.