Connacht out-half Jack Carty says he's confident he can get back into Andy Farrell's international plans.
The 29-year-old is yet to win a Test cap since Farrell replaced Joe Schmidt as head coach, last featuring for Ireland almost two years ago at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
However, while he hasn't been capped under Farrell, he has been involved with the coach's wider squads, most recently for the delayed portion of Ireland's 2020 Six Nations last October.
Carty said he reached out to Farrell over the summer to ask him what he needs to do to get back into contention, and that he was hugely encouraged by the response.
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"I sent him a text and he got back to me within - and I'm not even lying - one minute," Carty says, ahead of Connacht's United Rugby Championship derby with Munster this Saturday (live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player).
"It wasn't a conversation about where I am, it's purely about when he wants from his tens in attack, and he made it crystal clear for me.
"The thing that gives me confidence is the fact that a lot of the things we're trying to do with 10 (in Connacht), in terms of attacking square, a lot of them are quite similar to what he wants from his 10.
"It gives me confidence to know that I'm doing that here, and there's a direct correlation between the two.
"Maybe before as a 10 I played quite laterally and that was probably the complete opposite in terms of what he was looking for.
"In that respect it gives me confidence."
While Johnny Sexton's long term replacement in the Ireland jersey still remains unknown, at 29, Carty is the oldest of the out-half contenders.
He faces stiff competition if he wants to make it back into the squad for next month's games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, with Munster pair Joey Carbery and Ben Healy, Leinster brothers Ross and Harry Byrne, and Ulster's Billy Burns all vying for a chance.
Despite Connacht losing two of their first three games of the URC, the out-half says he's been pleased with his own performances so far.
The Athlone native says he's made real strides defensively in the off-season, with new coach Colm Tucker.
It's the strongest I've been defensively so I want to keep doing that
"I would like to think (I'm playing) relatively good. Probably one or two errors.
"I've been really happy defensively with how I've been going, it's been a major work-on for me, and it's the strongest I've been defensively so I want to keep doing that.
"With the nature of the game it's teams looking for access through the 10 channel, so I've been working with Cullie (Colm Tucker) week-in and week-out doing live tackles, and that's benefitted me on weekends.
"In terms of overall management of games, I think the messaging from coaches has been the clearest it's ever been for me, and instead of it being on the nines and tens to manage the game, I think there are five or six players managing the game.
"It takes pressure off me and enables me to worry about other facets of the game, whether it's attacking a ball or putting players into holes which is stuff I enjoy doing, whereas previously it would have been managing zones of the pitch.
"I would like to think I've been going well. There are still areas there that have room for improvement, and hopefully I can keep going ion that upward trajectory," he added.
After two defeats from three games, Connacht sit 12th in the URC table, and are bottom of the Irish shield, nine points adrift of third place Leinster.
And while the season is still in its infancy, the next two weeks could make or break their season; they travel to Thomond Park to take on Munster this Saturday, before heading to Dublin where are hosting Ulster at the Aviva Stadium.
Should they lose both of those games, their chances of Heineken Champions Cup qualification would realistically be doomed, while a pair of victories would put a spark back into them heading towards the Test window.
In good news, the province will be welcoming Bundee Aki back into the fold after his extended summer break, while wing Alex Wootton will also be available for selection against his former province.
Connacht continue to struggle for consistency. Eddie O'Sullivan and Donal Lenihan dissect their loss to the Dragons. #RTERugby #URC pic.twitter.com/2WZdROYtOB— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) October 11, 2021
Kieran Marmion is a doubt for the trip to Limerick as he nurses an ankle injury, but centre Tom Farrell looks set to miss the game due to a shoulder injury picked up against the Dragons.
Carty says despite the disappointing nature of their defeat to the Welsh side last week, motivation won't be an issue as they had into the first interpro block of games.
"The motivation in interpros is always going to be there, the thing for us is how we can marry it into games that aren't. That's the key for us.
"The week previously you're coming in on Monday on cloud nine because you've put a good performance in, and then you finish the game on Saturday evening and you know it's going to be a pretty brutal review.
"It's just the way life is in a rugby environment, the ups and downs.
"Once we parked the Dragons game, the excitement is building for this game which is what we need."
Follow Munster v Connacht (Saturday 7.35pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport or the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player. Watch Ulster v Lions (Friday 7.35pm) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.