Connacht's New Zealand-born Jake Heenan on the prospect of Ireland consideration

Flanker became eligible for international duty in June

Jake Heenan, Connacht

Connacht's Jake Heenan ©INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht's Jake Heenan says he has spoken to Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with the potential for playing international rugby in the future.

The Whangarei-born flanker played for New Zealand's under-20s in 2012 before signing for Connacht in 2013.

The 24-year-old became eligible for Ireland selection in June 2016 after completing the three-year residency period. 

He joined Off The Ball's rugby panel alongside ex-Leinster and Ireland back-row Kevin McLaughlin and ex-Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan.

"I've spoken with Joe Schmidt, I think in the middle of last season," he said of developing his game and just concentrating on improving his own performances.

(L to R: Jake Heenan, Ger Gilroy, Kevin McLaughlin and Eddie O'Sullivan)

"I've great faith in our management, Pat [Lam] and Jimmy Duffy, so I continue to bounce things off them, and again worry about my game. There's nothing I can worry about it at this level. Obviously, my big goal is international rugby and I've still got my dream to be the best player in the world. But for me, it's about my processes and worrying about what I can control."    

Meanwhile, Eddie spoke about the embracing of stylistic approaches epitomised by Connacht.

"It's down to your confidence on the ball. Connacht are playing a different style of rugby than most teams. I mean, we're still playing in that rough three rough quotation, Ireland and we do go about winning collisions," he said.

"Connacht are playing across the field, in the channels. They're keeping players in situ. Players don't chase the ball. They stay in the channels. It's a different way of doing it but one thing you still have to do, no matter how you dice it or skin the cat, you've got to hold onto the ball.

"And to do that, your accuracy around the breakdown has to be good. You have to believe that you can go through a game with probably about 100 rucks and retain about 95% of them. If you can do that, then the confidence of doing it in your own half - it doesn't really matter if it's in your own '22 or their '22 if you're confident that you're going to hold on to the pill - but you have to have that belief and guy's headsets have to change; that it doesn't matter that 'we're under our own posts here. If we get numbers to the ruck and do our jobs, the ball's going to come back and we'll play out of it.'"

Eddie believes that changes are beginning to be felt at all levels, including internationally here.

"That's the way the game has changed. Lots of teams are doing that now. We're embracing that a bit more now as a point in recent times, which is a good thing. The game has become a lot more multi-phased at every level. We're now looking into the high teens, high 20 sets - 20 rucks in an offensive set - which is a  bit of change. But that's where the game is and we're well able to play it. We're as good as anybody else at it."