Heffernan aiming to use interpros as platform for Ireland’s summer Tests

AS IS OFTEN the case, it’s been something of a mixed bag for Connacht this season. Familiar issues have cost them both domestically and in Europe. A sharp looking attacking game has been hampered by a defence which tends to offer up too many opportunities, while on days where the defence has stood up, the attack has looked blunt.

Game management and discipline have also proved costly at different stages of the season.

Yet for all that, there has been plenty of promise. When they are on song Connacht are a fluid, spirited outfit capable of playing some excellent rugby. Their form in this season’s interpros – of which there has been no shortage – has also been encouraging.

That January victory over Leinster at the RDS stands out, of course, but the manner of their last-ditch comeback win against Ulster last time out will have pleased Andy Friend for different reasons. Having come out on the wrong side of so many tight games, this time Connacht were able to dig in, find a solution and turn the tide.

Add in a couple of close-run defeats to Munster and Connacht have fared quite well against their fellow provinces this season. They have another chance to take a big scalp this weekend, as a Leinster team reeling from European heartbreak travel to the Sportsground.

For Connacht, it’s a chance to make it two wins from two in the Rainbow Cup and build some real momentum in the new tournament.

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“It is really encouraging,” Dave Heffernan says of the province’s form in this season’s interpros.

“I think our view is just for consistency, but that’s what we are trying to aim for in these next two games, to back up those good performances. There is no point going up and beating Ulster and then putting in a poor performance here at home against Leinster. We want to make this a tough place to come and it probably hasn’t been at times this season.

“We want to correct that for the Rainbow Cup and make sure that anyone that comes here knows they’re coming for a huge challenge.”

Heffernan has his own reasons for wanting to impress during this window. While we know Ireland won’t be embarking on their planned summer tour to Fiji, there will be summer tests of some description confirmed shortly. 

Naturally, the Connacht hooker is keen to be involved.

Heffernan made his Ireland debut back in 2017 but had to wait until last year’s autumn games for another taste of Test rugby. He featured off the bench four times during that window but while he was included in Andy Farrell’s squad for the 2021 Six Nations, he didn’t play a single minute.

“It would be a massive opportunity if I got selected (for the summer games), but that’s what the next few games are for,” Heffernan says.

Heffernan was part of Ireland’s Six Nations squad this year. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I need to show I am good enough and be better than the guys that are ahead of me. I didn’t get a look in there in the Six Nations but I probably wasn’t playing well enough. I think now I really need to up my form and really bring it for the next few games.

“I was quite happy with my performance against Ulster so I just need to bring that form forward in the next few games as well.”

Farrell and Co have provided the 30-year-old, who has featured 11 times for Connacht this season, with clear feedback on the areas of his game where they feel there is scope for improvement.

“Just to impose myself on the game, getting on the ball as much as possible,” Heffernan explains.

“I think when I’m going well my ball-carrying can be one of my strengths, so it’s about getting on the ball as much as possible, but not forcing it either. Letting myself get in the flow of the game and get a better reading of the game so I can put myself in position to get on the ball.

“That would have been the big one from the coaches.”

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