As the build-up to our return to rugby continues, we're introducing you to all the new players who have signed for Connacht in the summer of 2020.
Today we speak to out-half Conor Dean, who has graduated from the Academy with one pro appearance already under his belt.
How have your first few weeks been back at The Sportsground, what has it been like?
It has been really good, it was weird the first few weeks with all the protocols in place. The first weeks were good in small groups and now we are back into full team sessions and it is getting very competitive with the games coming up.
Was it tough training during quarantine and how did you find the whole experience being at home?
I found it okay as the guys split up the gym equipment, there were no excuses to come back in bad shape and the weather helped when it came to going outside and getting the running in. I spent quarantine back in Dublin and my family joined in at times during my training sessions which were good fun. My dad done his back in five weeks in so I got the blame for that!
What would you say your overall experience was like in the Connacht Rugby academy?
Nigel was head coach of the Irish U20's when I was there, so he was a familiar face when I arrived and would have been a good person to get a link with. While in the Academy I was integrated into the Senior team quite a bit. The lads treat everyone the same whether you are sub-academy or academy, it was a great environment and was very welcoming.
Are there any coaches in the academy that helped you with your development up until this point?
Mossy Lawler was a huge influence for me, he took most of the sessions and his attention to detail was second to none. His details on the smallest things were immense.
I know rugby was a big part of your family growing up, was your dad a big influence on getting you to play or did you naturally fall into it after seeing him play?
He was pretty relaxed and didn’t push me to play. I went to Blackrock, all we did growing up was play with a rugby ball.
You are originally from Dublin, what has the whole experience been like in the West of Ireland since you moved?
It has been a great experience, it is so different here. It is a lot more community based since it is a smaller place. The atmosphere on match week in town is buzzing and it has been a great change.
How important is it that the pathway is there for players to continue to come up through the Academy into the first team?
It is huge, this year six of us graduated from the Academy to the Pro team and there are loads more coming through pushing us. It is an unbelievable system in place and hopefully, we can keep generating more players coming through that system.
Have you learned a lot from other players like Conor and Jack?
They have both been very helpful, with Jack in the World Cup last year, the experience he brought back was incredible. Conor had a brilliant season last year, they have both been able to give me invaluable advice. They are probably sick of me asking them questions at this stage. They would be very good to review games and clips for me and help me out where they can.
How are you preparing yourself for the games in August and going forward for the season?
I am taking it day by day, each session is quite intense these days. I am trying to hopefully stay injury-free and put my best foot forward in training every day.
What would you like to achieve in your first season with Connacht rugby?
Eventually, I want to nail down a starting place. But you can’t look too far forward, you have to train as best as you each week and give the coaches a headache when it comes to selecting the team.
When you play in August there will be no supporters at the games, do you think it will be difficult playing in an empty stadium?
We have touched on it in our sessions and discussed how we will bring our own intensity. There is no extra support or extra noise, it will be different. Once we get into the game we will just get our job done, the team energy will be very important.
What is an interesting fact about you that the Connacht supporters would not know?
It would be my love for the game of golf. If I wasn’t playing rugby I would be on the golf course.