Andrew Conway, centre, is congratulated by team mates Arno Botha, Rory Scannell and JJ Hanrahan after scoring one of his two tries against Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO14 at Musgrave Park on Friday
SO how would Andrew Conway compare the version of himself which arrived at Munster six years ago with a lofty under-age reputation to that which scored a hat-trick of tries for Ireland against the USA nine days ago and bagged two more for Munster against Edinburgh on Friday?
For one, twenty seven-year-old Conway says he is enjoying his rugby more now.
Over five and a half seasons, Conway has amassed 103 caps for Munster and added 10 appearances for Ireland.
The winger says he is a more mature person than the 22-year-old who arrived at Munster from Leinster at the start of the 2013/2014 season.
Conway said: “I’m a lot more mature, probably (than when I arrived at Munster), I enjoy rugby more, I'd say.
“I’ve changed my mindset around how grateful I am to be a rugby player. It may have happened a bit too quick for me at the start where I was 18 and I was just out of school and I had signed a contract with Leinster.
“Then, it didn't keep continuing on that trajectory.
“I think part of it was that I almost didn't realise the work that it took to try and become an international player.
“I had to find out the hard way that it doesn’t just happen for you, maybe your talent might get you a provincial contract, but the hard work starts then.
“It's not that I didn't necessarily work hard. I probably just did the minimum.
“I turned up, I trained hard whenever I was on the pitch, I did my weight sessions, but I didn't really go after it in all aspects. That took a few years to learn.
“Thankfully, I did learn the lesson in time to live out the dream of playing for Ireland, hope to continue doing that.
“It is a constant learning and my mindset changes pretty much from year to year because that is just the revolution of you're getting that bit older, you are seeing things in a different way and you are growing, so hopefully I will keep continuing to learn.
“The game is changing even now and you need to keep going with that and adapting with that, so hopefully it will keep going.”
So did he find it hard not to push too hard to get starts in all the marquee Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 fixtures when he first arrived?
“If you are being honest with yourself it is not anyone's fault except for yours (not being selected for the biggest Munster games when he first arrived), so you just need to get your s**t together really and realise that.
“No one is going to do it for you, no one is going to do the hard work, no one is going to do the extras, no one is going to turn up and play the game for you.
“You have to do it yourself and that just is what it is. It's the reality of life, not just in rugby. It is not going to be handed to you on a silver plate, 'here you go, enjoy yourself', you need to go out and earn your teammates respect, you need to go out and earn your opposition respect, you do that week to week.
“You need to make that a lifestyle choice, fit everything in around your performance because at the end of the day we have one test a week that everyone sees, but there is a lot more goes into it than just that 80 minutes.
“That 80 minutes is a reflection of your consistency throughout the week and throughout the foundations you have laid in pre-season, everything that you do, so it is a constant lifestyle thing.”
Conway’s fine run of form for Munster so far this season scoring five tries in seven starts – including two against Edinburgh in Cork on Friday – saw him win three more Ireland caps in November with starts against Italy and the USA and a used substitute role against Argentina.
However, Conway, who made his 100th appearance for Munster against Leinster in October, believes he is yet to play the best rugby of his career.
He said: “I don't think so, no.
“Yes and no. I am playing all right, but if I can continue on and get involved like I have been saying - I want to be involved - in the teens carries and setting lads up, not just going out there and getting the ball when it comes to my wing and chasing the high ball when there is a box kick on my side, I want to go out and put my stamp on games.
“If I can continue to do that then I think I will be playing the best rugby of my career.”
Munster have been boosted recently by the return to full fitness of Ireland internationals, scrum-half Conor Murray and centre Chris Farrell, South African centre Jaco Taute and dynamic back-rower Conor Oliver.
Munster face into the first of two back-to-back Champions Cup pool fixtures against Castres Olympique when the French champions visit Thomond Park on Sunday, 1pm.
Conway said of the returning internationals: “It is brilliant. Having lads fresh in off big injuries is a huge thing.
“The energy guys bring naturally from watching on from the sidelines for a long time is infectious.
“You have guys who have been away on international duty and are coming back, the guys who have been here and have done really well over the past month. It’s a good place to be.
“You lose one game especially in Europe, we have a win and a draw, we probably need two wins out of these next block in Europe to put ourselves in the frame to be where we want to be. It’s exciting.”
* Andrew Conway was unveiled as a Brand Ambassador for Life Style Sports at their store at Childers Retail Park, Childers Road, Limerick on Thursday last. To join the conversation and learn more about the partnership follow @lifestylesportsrugby and #LiveRugby