Thursday 27 June 2019

'Rocky' Leavy aims to land knock-out blow on Scarlets

Dan Leavy still showing the scars of battle yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dan Leavy still showing the scars of battle yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

In the immediate aftermath of Leinster's quarter-final victory over Saracens, Jonathan Sexton spoke glowingly of man of the match Dan Leavy.

"He's like Rocky," said the out-half. "He doesn't train all week and then just turns up." Sexton was referring to Elsom, a latter-day back-row enforcer at Leinster and European champion.

And yet he could just have easily have been referring to another Rocky; Balboa's pock-marked peeper after his first encounter with Apollo Creed.

Leavy is a man who puts his head where some may not dare to look; the evidence is inked upon his skewed facial features. The sacrifice is a moot point, to him.

"I never think about it," he says. "I think the modelling career is not going to kick off so, you know, I'll take two black eyes to get through this game and get to a final. So yeah, if it happens it happens."

A back-row needs to be both selfish and selfless, hungry for the ball yet willing to risk all in the endeavour to source it. There isn't a moment to weigh consequences or negotiate the tariff.

"That's just the way I've kind of always played," Leavy explains.

"To some people it might look like it's a bit dangerous but it's just the way I've always been, particularly when I go for a ball.

"I think if you are second guessing yourself in the back-row, especially as a seven going for the ball, you are going to hurt yourself. So you are either all in or you are out."

It seems strange to recall that earlier this season his coaches at Leinster were, while remaining enthusiastic about his development, still nagging him to impact on an entire 80 minutes, rather than just for a few.

Safe to say that he has been more about momentous, rather than momentary, effect, since then. Being closer to the action has helped, considerably.

"I still try and play the same way, just keeping in the game as much as possible really," he explains. "I find it a little bit more difficult to play at six because I am away from the ball a lot longer. And I think my strength is in around contact and in around the ball.

"I do definitely think I'm more at home playing seven, getting out and making the first tackle or hitting the first ruck, getting into the game as much as possible."

Which is where some complications may arise this weekend, depending on whether or not Leinster might have to re-shuffle their back-row.

It is a tribute to his influence, however, that even were Sean O'Brien to make an unlikely return, it would be the Carlow man who would have to cede the open-side slot to the tyro, not the other way around.

"If I play at six and we get through to the final, I don't care," he says breezily. "My strength is at seven. But I'm not the coach, so I don't make that call."


Nothing will be taken for granted; especially this weekend's opposition, unlike last year in their RDS renewal. Leavy tantalisingly reveals that this may have been the case in one of their two losing semi-finals - against Scarlets in the PRO12 and Clermont in the Champions Cup - last term.

"We never like losing. I didn't like either of the games to be honest. I think we overlooked it almost in some regards," he says.

"And we can't make that mistake again, because they (Scarlets) are a quality outfit. We didn't bring our A game to that semi-final and we paid.

"They are littered with Welsh internationals and you throw in a Tadhg Beirne and a few others around the park and they are a serious handful. They are going to come over confident as well. They have no fear here. It wasn't that we were looking at them differently (last year). It's just we didn't step up the way we should have and it cost us the season."

Rocky aims to make sure his side lands the knock-out blow this time.

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