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Jack Conan has set his sights on a starting place in Ireland’s World Cup team in Japan next month.
The Leinster No 8 was outstanding last season and played a crucial part in ensuring back-to-back PRO14 triumphs for the province.
He has been a regular in the international squad since making his debut four years ago, but is now aiming to establish himself as the first choice No 8 in Joe Schmidt’s squad.
He knows he will have quite a job removing Munster stalwart CJ Stander from the position however. Stander has been a leading performer for club and country for many years, but Conan is confident that his time has come.
"If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will," he said.
"I definitely see myself being able to lock down that position.
"Once I am given an opportunity, as I have been throughout the year, I think I have shown I am more than capable of doing it.
"There are still areas I can improve in. I will be better. Where I am in the moment is the closest that I've been, but there is more to come."
Conan was one of the leading lights when an experimental Ireland side toured the USA and Japan two years ago, so is very familiar with the conditions over there.
"That kind of hard ground, hot day suits me," the 26-year-old added.
"It is nice open, quick rugby. I feel that brings the best out of myself. I've always performed really well in those conditions.
"It is setting up to be a really exciting campaign in the World Cup, if I get the nod to go.
"There is still a lot of work to be done between now and then.
"CJ is some player as well and he has been fantastic for Ireland every time he has gotten the opportunity to play.
"I look forward to battling it out with him and we will see what happens."
With Schmidt set to name his final squad following four warm-up games, the first of which comes against Italy this weekend at the Aviva, Conan knows that some players are bound to miss out and he is determined to avoid that feeling again after experiencing it ahead of the 2015 tournament.
"It was disappointing," he admitted, looking back.
"I was in a position where everyone ahead of me had far more experience. That being said, I still gave myself a decent shot because I had played well. It will definitely add some fuel to the fire.
"It would he hugely different if I didn't make it this year compared to 2015.
"Where I am and how I have been playing at this stage in my career... as I said I've produced as well as I ever have in the last few months.
"If that isn't good enough to do it, that would be upsetting, but I'm backing myself and I'm confident that I'm fit and ready to be in Japan."
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