HE SAYS HE doesn’t have a home scrummaging machine, which is a little surprising given how much of Denis Buckley’s professional life revolves around packing down with a hooker and a tighthead and engaging in a series of mini-car crashes every game.
Connacht have started this season as strongly as any other, and with a nucleus of young players, there probably hasn’t ever been as much optimism at The Sportsgrounds as there is at the moment.
A key component of their success this year has been the scrum and loosehead Buckley has played a massive part of that unit, playing in every game so far for the province.
The scrum is probably the area of the game that flummoxes fans the most but Buckley denies that each hit puts a prop a little closer to a wheelchair.
“It can be tough going and I was fairly wrecked after the Zebre game last weekend but you just have to keep working on it in training so you can build up a fitness for it,” Buckley said.
Last season Buckley was still a young player who was sort of growing into himself but over the summer he blossomed into a full-fledged professional prop capable of holding his own against a series of top players.
Actually, blossoming probably isn’t the way to describe a prop whose summer consisted of gym sessions punctuated by massive feeds that would put most of us into a day-long food coma.
“Over the summer the coaching staff gave me a program to put on more weight and I trusted them because I didn’t know if I would be able to carry it,” Buckley said.
“I went back home to Roscommon for a month and all I did was train and eat. I put on 8 kilos over the summer and it is really paying off now.”
It certainly is paying off, with the province yesterday announcing two new contracts for their ‘homegrown heroes’, one for Buckley and the other for fullback Darragh Leader.
Buckley’s contract is until 2017 but even with the extra job security, you won’t see him dropping a large sum of money on bottle service at a trendy Galwegian nightspot or leasing a flash motor from one of the premier showrooms.
“I have a sponsorship with Mazda so I don’t need to go off and buy a Mercedes,” Buckley laughed.
“No, I’m just going to put my head down and work hard and I am not planning any major purchases.”
Putting his head down and working hard at training is probably the best thing for Buckley at this stage of his career given who he is training with. Provincial team-mates Nathan White, Rodney Ah You and Ronan Loughney have all been selected in national squads in the past so the best chance he has of getting on Joe Schmidt’s radar is by besting the competition in his own squad.
Buckley’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed (in particular by commenters on TheScore.ie) and the prop acknowledged the fortunate position he is in to learn from so many top-level front rows.
“It is really nice to be put in that bracket of props but at the moment my focus is playing for Connacht,” Buckley said.
“It is great to be able to train week in and week out with international level props. Going up against that calibre of player every day in training has been great for me.”
Connacht’s squad has some senior figures like Mils Muliaina and Michael Swift but a lot of important positions in the team are filled by guys in their early 20′s.
Over the last few years there has been a pattern of people building up their resume in the west before moving east but Buckley thinks the chances being afforded to young players by Pat Lam could entice people to move in the opposite direction.
“I think young lads will see Connacht as a good opportunity,” Buckley said.
“A lot of young players have gotten game-time so I think young players might want to come here instead of our guys going to other provinces.”
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