Fighting fit Leamy up for a little Argy bargy
YOU'D wonder if Denis Leamy feels the eggshells beneath his feet each day. If, as he rises each morning, he cracks every significant bone in his body just to confirm that he doesn't feel any pain.
He reads about Ulster's David Pollock, the new kid on the block, one of his supposed usurpers, forced to retire at just 23 and slumps his shoulders in empathy. Leamy celebrates his 29th birthday on Sunday, but the Rock of Cashel has been pockmarked himself by constant physical erosion in recent times.
After Munster's Heineken Cup win in 2008, Leamy endured a long lay-off with a shoulder injury. He returned for the famous All Blacks clash later that year, but lasted only 25 minutes before damaging the same shoulder.
His subsequent comeback for Munster was scarred by a serious knee injury, from which he battled back to partake in Ireland's Grand Slam success in 2009; Jamie Heaslip has only been dropped once under Declan Kidney and Leamy was his replacement -- in the 22-15 win against Scotland on the way to the Grand Slam.
Having motored well at the start of last season, the gods mocked Leamy yet again when an inspirational display for Munster against Perpignan was eclipsed by news of a season-ending knee injury.
And yet, even if Ireland's Holy Trinity of Ferris-Wallace-Heaslip appears an immoveable force under this regime, Leamy has retained his stature as the primary replacement, surpassing Sean O'Brien and the various stand-ins who manned the trenches so bravely on the summer tour.
Despite his injury travails, he refuses to deify the fates that once mocked him. For once, he is not operating with niggling injures tugging at his well-being.
"I'm probably as good as I've been in two or three years," says Leamy, finally operating at full tilt.
"The last two years I played a lot while injured, though I didn't always admit it at the time.
"It's been difficult getting out on the pitch every week, knowing you're carrying something over the whole time, but managing to go from game to game.
"That put a strain on me, but at the moment I'm fit and my body is in as good a place as it's been for a long time. It's great just to go out and say 'I'm as near to 100pc fit as I've been for a long, long time.
"That gives you a huge amount of confidence and I'm really enjoying rugby at the moment. It was pretty stressful over the last while, when I was carrying injuries; I was struggling a little bit with confidence and a little bit with form.
"It was disheartening from time to time, but I have to say I'm really enjoying the game at the moment and I just want to play as much rugby as I can."
A game against the Argentinians will provide a realistic barometer of Ireland's progress and the pressure of operating against opponents who have historically brought out the worst in each other will certainly test the squad's resolve.
Leamy added: "Yeah, they can be very much in your face, but they play a very confrontational game, obviously the Latin temperament and everything that goes with it. It's high octane, it's high-paced and it will be physical and confrontational.
"There will no doubt be a couple of bust-ups and everything else that goes with it and a few mouthing matches. That's the way it is. We've had our little bit of history with them.
"There are two sides to everything, we're far from being angels. It comes from both sides. There has been a bit of niggle over the last 10, 15 years probably. I don't know, maybe we possibly do bring out the worst in each other."