Carey has fallen back in love with rugby as he savours Saints experiences

It's fair to say it's been an eventful journey for new Saints prop Conor Carey so far - and there is no end in sight just yet.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 12:52 pm
Conor Carey

Carey joined the black, green and gold from Perpignan last month and made his debut in the defeat to London Irish last weekend.

The 30-year-old did have a time in his career when he considered calling it a day, but after rediscovering his love for the game, he is very much back at the coalface.

When asked to give Saints supporters an idea of his rugby journey so far, Carey is happy to discuss the winding road that led him to cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

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He explained: "I started out at Ulster, having been at a big rugby school called Methody.

"I did three years at Ulster and didn't play but it was a good place to be because Ulster were the second best team after Leinster at the time and there was good props like BJ Botha and John Afoa.

"To get game time I went to Ealing Trailfinders for the first year they were promoted to the Championship and at 21 as the starting tighthead I got a lot of experience.

"I learned a lot and once they got relegated I had two great years at Nottingham, missing just one game.

"I was lucky enough that Connacht came calling and it was the year they'd just won the Pro14 so it was a team on the up.

"I got to play quite a lot and started 10 of the first 12 games, including four Champions Cup games, which gave me a lot of experience.

"I got injured but came back for the last game of the season, which was a European play-off game against Northampton here. It was a great atmosphere and an unbelievable experience.

"I did two more years at Connacht, really enjoyed it. I loved Galway, and Connacht would be the team I would support, after Northampton obviously.

"I went to Worcester, got to play a fair bit early on and then did my Achilles and got a few niggly injuries coming back from that.

"I ruptured my bicep last March and thought that was my time to pack it all in so I was sitting in London, training a bit and looking at options.

"I went to Nevers, a Pro D2 club for a week but it wasn't for me and the day I came back from that I got a call from Perpignan about getting a three-month medical joker contract.

"It's such a big club and I'd played against them a few times in Europe for Connacht so I knew how passionate the club was.

"Those three months helped me to fall in love with rugby again and my body felt much better, waking up every day and it was 25 degrees.

"It was a totally different training environment and being able to go to the beach and to Barcelona and Montpellier on days off, it helped me see how much I love rugby again.

"When this opportunity came up, because I'd played here with Connacht and Worcester and because I watch a lot of rugby - I call myself a rugby pig - it was a very easy decision.

"I got out of my contract two weeks early to come here and that's been me for the past few weeks."

So what would Carey have done had he called it a day following that injury earlier this year?

"I've studied, I'm doing my accounting exams at the moment so that was definitely an option," he said.

"I was talking to a National League 1 club in London about playing for them and they were setting me up for some interviews for work in the city, things like insurance and foreign exchange trading.

"But I knew I had more to give to the game so when I got that opportunity I knew it wasn't time to say goodbye.

"Even if I hadn't got that opportunity in France, I would have held out because so many people unfortunately get injured that there would have been a place for a prop come up."

Carey is credited with playing a part in Alex Waller's recovery from an Achilles injury last year, with Waller previously explaining that he was sent a gift by his now team-mate.

"I did my Achilles in the January and Sue (Waller) did his in February, March time," Carey said.

"When I was at Connacht they had knee scooters and I was off the scooter by the time Sue got injured so I asked Ethan if Alex wanted it.

"We played Northampton that week so it was easy to give him the scooter.

"It was an easy transition and it was good that it got used again."

Carey has clearly loved being part of the Saints environment so far, and he savoured his debut last weekend.

He said: "It's great!

"I knew when I came in that I wouldn't play in the first couple of Premiership games when I came in and we had talked about me needing two or three weeks of hard training to get up to speed.

"I knew I would get a bit of a go in these Prem Cup games and it was great to get involved.

"I'd been training a lot with the group that played last weekend so it made the transition into the team easier."

Saints are now setting their sights on a Friday night trip to Harlequins in the second of four Premiership Rugby Cup pool games this season.

And Carey said: "We're putting out a similar team and if we start like we came out in the second half it could be a good result for us.

"It should be a great game because they want to play rugby and we want to play rugby.

"We do have a good bit of experience in the team and we do have youth also.

"We've got the likes of Karl Wilkins who is a tough guy who will carry all day long.

"Even the young guys are men and there's a photo of me after last weekend's game with them and I'm about a foot shorter than everyone else even though I'm 6ft.

"They seem to be a lot bigger than when I was in the Academy!"