Jack Conan is an unfortunate victim of Caelan Doris' rise, and has done nothing wrong to force himself out of the Irish XV, according to Andy Dunne.
The Wicklow native made his debut for Ireland in 2015, and has since amassed over 36 test for his country. However, it was on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa that he truly announced himself as one of Ireland's best back rowers.
A year before the test series began, Conan was barely able to make the Leinster starting line up for Pro14 matches. However, after performing in the tour matches in Warren Gatland's side, was putting up strong performances against the world champions.
He was praised as one of the best players for the tourists just two years ago. And now, Caelan Doris has risen to the point where he been called the best number eight in the world, meaning there is no place for Conan.
For former Connacht and Leinster outhalf Andy Dunne and Irish Times' Gerry Thornley, Conan is unfortunate to be playing at the same time as Doris in his current form.
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Dunne broke down why he thinks Conan is not able to get much game time for Andy Farrell.
"I think he's just been overtaken by a player who's playing exceptional rugby," Dunne said. "I don't Conan has done anything wrong.
"I just think Doris has accelerated his levels. It's just hard to think there's a better number eight in the world at the moment.
"That's tough on Conan, but he's not done anything wrong."
'An embarrassment of riches'
While many would take this inability to get game time as a knock to their confidence, Dunne believes that Conan is taking it in his stride and continually working towards improving himself.
"I don't think Jack is the type, knowing him," Dunne said. "I would've lost my confidence, I can tell you. Again, he's in an environment that the emotional intelligence within that coaching group and the experience they've got, they'll manage that well.
"They'll push the right buttons with Jack. Jack is one of these people that, I've heard sports psychologists say an 'internal locus of control'.
"He's like, 'I'm going to manage my response to this, I'm not going to blame coaches or be jealous of an improvement in Doris' game'.
"He'd be the type who would just dig in, work harder, do the right things, say the right things. He's diplomatic and he's a natural leader.
"I just think it's an embarrassment of riches. I don't see any deterioration in his game whatsoever."
It's not Jack Conan that Gerry Thornley feels for, however. "It is actually even more unfortunate for Gavin Coombes and Max Deegan to be roughly the same age as Caelan Doris," Thornley added.
"It's like being born in the same year as Brian O'Driscoll and deciding you're going to be an outside centre."
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