London-born Cian Romaine represented Ireland Under 20s in the recent Six Nations and is looking ahead to the Junior World Cup later this year. David Hennessy spoke to the Connacht and Buccaneers lock
As one of the try scorers in Ireland’s emphatic 47-15 opening victory away to Italy, Ealing’s Cian Romaine performed impressively in the Six Nations for Ireland Under 20s.
Cian tells The Irish World: “It was really good to get the experience. We beat Italy, the conditions over there were terrible, it snowed the day before and they were still clearing the snow the day of the game. The pitch was an absolute mud bath but we still managed to put 47 points on them and then the week afterwards against France who were the champions of the Six Nations last year, and then put another 37 points on them as well was really good.
“From there, we were quietly optimistic.”
After beginning with victories over Italy and France, who Ireland beat 37-20, Cian’s team were on the receiving end of a narrow defeat to England and then went down 12-19 to Wales. Cian had to sit out the final defeat to Scotland through injury.
“England was just a different ball game, they were so physical up front and everywhere. We found it difficult to deal with. A few mistakes that day that cost us a lot but overall, I’m fairly happy.
“Against Wales as well, we had a good few changes in the pack, the scrum struggled a bit and we kind of just failed to deal with it enough and lost that battle which made it hard for our backs to play as well.”
Nevertheless, the campaign was a personal achievement for Cian who has been in Ireland for almost two years. Based in Galway, he has been playing his club rugby with Athlone’s Buccaneers and involved with the Connacht Under 19s and then Under 20s before his determination earned him international recognition.
Involved in the Italy, France and England games as replacement, he started the Wales contest: “I was happy just to be there to be honest. When I came over here, I kind of just had pipe dreams of making the squad and then it became it more realistic. I was just taking it step by step so first, I was trying to get in the squad, then trying to get in the team and next, just trying to get a starting place so I was thrilled to be there.“
Now the 19-year old Connacht lock and his team mates are already looking ahead to a Junior World Cup taking place in Italy in June where Ireland will have a tough task but have great reason for optimism.
Cian says: “We have Scotland in our group for that World Cup so the game against them in the Six Nations, we just wanted to set a benchmark saying we can beat Scotland but obviously we lost so now we’ll be looking at the game, seeing where we went wrong and trying to make improvements. We have Argentina and New Zealand as well. New Zealand will obviously be a very tough game so it will be tough to come out of that pool. Argentina as well, they’ll be big as well so we need to put in a lot of work before the World Cup.
“We have ten players that were Under 20s last year so obviously they’re very experienced and every game we go into, they share their experience with us, let us know what we need to work on, what things we need to do, how to be mentally prepared for the game because it’s all well and good, being physically prepared but it’s all in the head as well. There’s a lot of mind games with other teams, We’re very confident. The talent we have in the team is just ridiculous, there’s so many good players and you could chop and change anyone and have the same outcome. There’s so much depth in the squad. There’s a lot of squads who, if they lose a few key players, that’s them gone but we’ve already had injuries and managed quite well.”
Although he was born in England, Cian’s allegiance has always been to the green shirt. His mother Elaine and her family come from Ballyforan in Roscommon while his father’s side of the family is Caribbean.
“I used to come to Ireland with my family since I was a kid and it was always Ireland. My mum’s family is all from Ireland so I never tried out for the English system, I went straight to Irish Exiles which is the link so any Irish players that live in England can come play over in Ireland. I always wanted to come over to Ireland for university, I hoped to for rugby but I didn’t really expect to.”
Cian played his rugby with Ealing Trailfinders. It was while trying out with the Irish Exiles programme that Nigel Carolan of Connacht spotted his potential. As manager of Ireland Under 20s. Carolan also gave Cian his Ireland debut.
“Nigel said he’d bring me over, give me a shot that summer (2013), I developed a lot that summer. Then it came into the season, I played a lot of A (for senior players requiring game time) games against professional teams. I fairly held my own so I think that’s what helped me a lot with getting into the 20s, having that experience at the higher level.”
Was it tough to lose to England, the country of his birth? “A bit, yeah. The team I wanted to beat most was probably England. They’re always the toughest and the one team you want to beat. They won the World Cup the last two years so if we beat them, we would be going into the World Cup with high hopes. I reckon if we play England again, we know how to deal with them now. They’re just so physical and if we can take their physical game out of it, we can get in there.”
It was a Rob Henshaw try against England that made sure of a crucial victory and set Ireland on their way to glory in the recent senior Six Nations. The Connacht centre, only 21, who started with Buccaneers like Cian is an inspiration to the young lock: “He works so hard on and off the pitch. You can tell just from the way he plays he knows his stuff, He’s definitely one of the best players to have come out of Connacht and he’s showing it, starting for Ireland. He’s been put in at 12 which is not his natural position and he’s doing incredibly there. He’s a great inspiration.”
Being a lock, is Ireland’s captain Paul O’Connell a big hero? “Definitely, he’s one of the best. He leads by example as well.
“We did a training session with all the seniors and he helped the young players. He was talking us through their plays and everything and making sure I knew what to do because the thing that makes a team good is that if everyone does their job, you can stop worrying about it and you can get on with the game but if you have people worrying about what to do, it just puts the team off. He’s a tremendous player and it’s shown by his stats and everything.
“I can’t think of anyone better to watch and learn from than Paul. Hopefully I’ll get to run into him again and he can give some small tips.
“Going in with the seniors, I was obviously a bit nervous but they made me feel comfortable. Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, they were all telling me what to do, where I needed to be. You need to know what you’re doing. I think that’s what they realised. They know if I’m doing the right job, they’ll be doing the right job. Me making mistakes wouldn’t help anyone so they just wanted to make sure everyone knew what they were doing, just have a good training session because if you train good, you play good. “
Business student Cian was well supported from both London and the parish of Ballyforan when he played for Ireland recently. His family will be making similar trips if and when Cian gets called up to the senior team managed by Joe Schmidt. There is no doubt this is Cian’s aim: “That’s pretty much the end goal, yeah. That’s where I want to be. That’s where I want my career to go. My grandad would be watching the game and he would be saying to me, what could I do to get myself out there? Even now, just because that’s the next step from where I am now. I highly doubt I’ll be out there next year but even now to look, what can I do to get myself out there? What can I do to make myself better than people out there? So start working now.
“The next goal for me is to get my first cap with Connacht seniors, that’s the goal for me at the moment. To get out there and then hopefully keep a place in the team and just work my way up from there, learn the ropes at the higher level.”
Cian will work towards this with good performances for both Connacht A and Buccaneers.