From the outside looking in, you could conclude that Andrew Conway’s November was a successful one.
He started Ireland’s first game when they took on Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago before making the bench for the first real Test of the series at home to Argentina a week later.
He wasn’t involved against the All Blacks but produced a man-of-the-match performance against the USA where he scored three tries in a blistering attacking display.
However, such has been Conway’s progression over the last few years and his desire to reach the very top, the Munster winger was disappointed not to be involved in the historic victory over New Zealand.
The competition in Joe Schmidt’s squad for the back-three spots is extremely competitive but he doesn’t use this as an excuse as he lays the blame for his absence solely on himself.
“Yeah, really happy to finish off November on a high, probably a few ups and downs missing out on that All Blacks game but I kind of really only have myself to blame by not stepping up and putting in a big performance in Chicago against Italy,” Conway said.
“That’s a nice learning. To miss out on those games is tough but you learn and you move on. To have the opportunity the following week to play in the Aviva in a sold-out crowd was amazing so I was pretty fired up not to let that pass me.”
Unfortunately for Conway, the All Blacks game wasn’t the only major fixture he missed out on this season. The 27-year-old was injured for Ireland’s Grand Slam triumph against England at Twickenham earlier this year and he admits it’s difficult to watch on, especially as a spectator in the stadium.
“Yeah, it is difficult. I’m not going to lie. It’s probably one of the worst parts of professional sport. It’s just a strange feeling as I was saying to you before. I don’t like going to those games. I was actually at the Grand Slam game and I wasn’t available through injury and it’s tough going, to be honest, being up in the crowd and hearing all the things going on.
“You want to be out there but if you’re not there, if you’re not playing, you kind of don’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be there. But you know what? You use it as motivation and that’s a huge thing I think – having something like that drive you and makes you train that extra bit harder and makes you do the small bits.
“I know you want to do that consistently but it puts a fire in your belly. Luckily there was an opportunity within a week to play again and it was great to be selected for that.”
That fire in the belly was certainly on show as Conway produced a brilliant performance against the USA which will likely give Schmidt plenty of food for thought as he starts prepping for the 2019 Six Nations.
In terms of where Conway needs to improve, he knows he’s not the finished article but that his all-round game has arrived at a stage where he can now focus on improving those extra one percents to really take him to the next level and make him stand out in matches.
“I think I just need to keep improving the basics but more so, just keep getting involved, keep putting my hand up and probably scoring tries, make it tougher for coaches not to pick me, really. I work really hard on my all-round game which I feel is gotten to a point now that the foundations are there and I just need to keep improving them by a percent and by a percent by just putting your hand up every game, don’t let a game go by you.
“I’m on the wing so sometimes you could have a game where the conditions aren’t great and it mightn’t get out to you but I need to find a way into that game and put my own stamp on it. If I’m doing that every week I think I’ll be in a good spot.”
For now, the immediate focus returns to provincial matters as Munster head into a crucial part of their season. That begins on Friday night as Conway and his teammates welcome Edinburgh to Irish Independent Park in Cork where they will be looking for a win to set them up for their back-to-back European clashes with Castres over the next two weeks.
Andrew Conway was unveiled on Thursday as a Brand Ambassador for Life Style Sports. To join the conversation and learn more about the partnership follow @lifestylesportsrugby and #LiveRugby.