At the Stade Rochelle, Ultan Dillon “definitely felt he made the right choice”.

At the Stade Rochelle, Ultan Dillon "definitely felt he made the right choice".

“I have a lot of respect for this team with good forwards and a lot of confidence in their balls. “My career has taught me never to underestimate the Ulstermen,” he smiles. Especially at home, the atmosphere here is a bit like that, especially in the Champions Cup, which increases the pressure on these players. We’re not kidding there, we haven’t achieved much. I think Connacht have only done this once in fifty years… It’s different for Stade Rochelle and I have confidence in our team. »

The All Blacks won

But it is not just the prospect of this comeback that has made his eye shine as the Champions Cup has a special resonance for him, having played 14 matches in this European Cup. “It’s awesome, it’s unbelievable, it’s one of the most impressive tournaments of the year. “We are taking the opportunity to launch him on the idea that the Irish favor it in the Championship, unlike the French. He wins by pointing out that every club fields their best team in this event. And then he admits it: “Yes, it is good if there is a chance to win it. »

“19 picks is not enough, although I am very happy with that. It was my dream.”

With four stars on the jersey for Leinster, he never got the chance to lift the trophy the yellow and black won in Marseille. Currently, is it difficult to survive in Ireland while playing for Connacht? Yes, the Galway team won the Pro 12 in 2016, beating Ulster, Munster, Glasgow and then the Dublin franchise. “To do it with the team we had, the way we did it… This is the best moment of my career, with the win against New Zealand (40-29, editor’s note), in Chicago. »

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In 2016, another historic event was experienced for the first time, this time on November 5. “It was good, very good, it was great! Paul O’Connell, Doug Howlett, players who were my heroes when I was young. After the match, we were told by Devin Toner or Jamie Heaslip that they had a great team but that they had never beaten the All Blacks. That was fun…” It was his sixth of 19 picks. Compared to the Irish competition, the highest score for a Connacht player? “I didn’t want to think like that, I didn’t want to make excuses for myself,” he says. But 19 is not enough for me, although I am very happy with it. It was my dream to play in the national team. »

Heartbreak in 2019

A small nod to history by replacing Donnacha Ryan in the 65th match of the 2016 tournament, his first cap. “I don’t remember anything, a good ball, good percussion. There was a lot of adrenaline and good pressure…” On the other hand, he maintained a strong relationship with his current coach and, at the time, wanted to help his younger brother improve, especially in contact. Quince at the 2023 World Cup Ultan Dillon preferred to join him in France rather than aim to join Du Tref.

“There was a possibility, it was very clear in my head. But it happened four years ago, I practiced well, I put my hand up and in the end they picked a South African who didn’t play again (Jean Klein, 5 Selections , editor’s note). It broke my heart a little bit… I didn’t want to go through that again. I got a very good opportunity: to come here, work on myself and make my best game. I am sure I made the right choice. »

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In particular he owes much to his family history. His partner, a doctor in Galway, has yet to follow him but lives alone with his cat, Fudge (caramel, editor’s note), who was at home when he arrived. Born in Paris to a well-travelled Irish mother and Franco-Ivorian father, he lived in Asnieres-sur-Seine (92) for seven years before joining the rural province of Munster. , in Tralee. . In 2017, the year she saw the “Park Joffre and Voltaire School” from her childhood, “she told me she would be happy if I could play in France”. Died a year later, “She would have been very happy, that’s for sure,” he says modestly.

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