By Ed Elliot, PA
Jack Conan says Ireland’s statement win over world champions South Africa is both a benchmark and a springboard for future challenges but also feels there are “massive areas” for improvement.
The in-form Irish maintained their hold on top spot in the world rankings thanks to Saturday’s gripping 19-16 success in Dublin.
Andy Farrell’s men move on to Aviva Stadium appointments with Fiji and Australia before turning attention to the 2023 Six Nations and next year’s World Cup.
British and Irish Lion Conan is hoping to start in Farrell’s back row against the Fijians this weekend following four consecutive appearances from the bench and wants to keep driving standards.
“The lads set an unbelievable platform at the weekend, the 15, the 23 that ran out,” said the 30-year-old.
“We spoke this week about that being the status quo now and we need to push on from that and get better.
“That is going to be the challenge because lads went so well on the weekend.
“It’s massive (the result), you want to play against the best teams in the world – we are the best team in the world at the moment.
“It’s a platform and a springboard going forward. We took a lot of lessons from it.
“There are massive areas we can get better at but it’s great with Fiji this week, Australia next week and leading into the Six Nations that we have that good performance under our belt.”
Although Ireland’s World Cup opener against Romania is still 10 months away, the countdown to the tournament is well and truly under way.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 8, 2022
Conan believes the run of physical autumn fixtures will evaluate the strength of Farrell’s squad and serve as solid preparation for a shot at lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in France.
While the clashes against the Springboks and the Wallabies are undoubtedly more high-profile, the Leinster man also insists Vern Cotter’s Fiji will not be taken lightly on Saturday.
“We spoke earlier about the bumps and bruises, lads picking up knocks and stuff,” said Conan.
“It’s the nature of the game and come the World Cup it’s going to happen, people are going to drop in and out, people are going to be unavailable for certain games so it shows the real strength in depth.
“It’s a great statement for how well prepared the team is at the moment.
“Fiji will play far more expansively than South Africa. The ability they have to a man to beat people one-on-one is some of the best in the world.
“There will be no time to switch off or catch your breath really. It’ll be a consistent performance that is needed to beat them.
“They are big men as well. There will be more one-off collisions in that they are more unpredictable than South Africa. It’s definitely a different challenge for us.”