Monday 19 March 2018

Impatient Leavy ready to show Leinster and Ireland his time has arrived

Leinster's Dan Leavy Picture: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Leinster's Dan Leavy Picture: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Given he only turned 30 last month, we're not sure how kindly Sean O'Brien would take to being called a "seasoned veteran", but then again you get the impression Dan Leavy would say it to his face.

Just over six years the Tullow Tank's junior, the former Ireland U-20 captain is in form and on a mission. He may be inexperienced, but he is undoubtedly talented, utterly confident and believes his time has arrived.

Leinster's coming man was Ireland's 24th man last weekend against France and found the experience rewarding and frustrating in equal measure.

At provincial level he is one of eight international back-rows, while even Peter O'Mahony cannot get into the Ireland XV, so patience is required. It seems, however, that Leavy is running low on that.

Capped against Canada in November, the 23-year-old is enjoying his finest season in blue and has fought his way to the head of a queue of loose forwards to be next cab off the rank against France.

That experience gave him a taste. He wants more. If he gets the opportunity to be the 24th man in Cardiff on Friday week and somebody goes down in the warm-up, he reckons he'd be ready to go.


"I'd like to hope so," he said. "I've trained with the team every day. I know what the intensity is like. I'd slot in pretty seamlessly with them.

"It takes a while to get up to speed with the calls and everything , the systems and stuff. But I'm comfortable now.

"It's one thing saying it and another thing doing it. I have to wait for my opportunity, showcase my talent and play the way I know I can.

"Even in the warm-up against France I was ready to play a match and I felt really comfortable, just dying to play.

"When I got into the changing-room, it was like 'you can have a shower now'.

"It was frustrating. I was on scrum-cam (filming scrums for the benefit of Ireland's analysis team) as well so I didn't even get to watch the game. . . there's positives and negatives.

"All I can do is perform well every time I go out on the pitch training , whatever, weights - and hopefully if I keep doing what I'm doing an opportunity might present itself."

That starts for Leinster against Scarlets on Saturday, a game the flanker has identified as another opportunity to press his claims.

Last time he wore the blue jersey, Leavy came off the bench for the injured Dominic Ryan and earned the man of the match award against Edinburgh with a powerful, try-scoring display.

Not only does he have his eye on an Ireland slot, he is also targeting a starting spot for next month's the Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps.

Time was, internationals would stroll back from the Six Nations and into the Leinster team for a big knock-out game, but Leo Cullen has been picking his team on form this year.

With the stars away, Leavy has been making hay and he concedes that he would be disappointed if he continues to out-perform his rivals and wasn't selected for the Aviva Stadium clash.

"Frustrated," he said. "There is going to be a degree of loyalty from coaches to players.

"Seanie is a world-class player. Everybody knows it. He has been performing in that jersey for years.

"If Leo has a seasoned vet on one hand and an up-and-coming player and he knows the vet will perform, in his head, why is he going to throw a young player out there in front of a vet?

"You have to push above the level to kind of take the decision away from him. That's what we all strive to do.

"The decision isn't up to me. If it was, I would play every week. It's out of my hands. All that's in my power is that I prepare as best I can and perform the best I can."

Presuming he is selected, Saturday's game at the RDS will be Leavy's 19th appearance in 23 Leinster games this season.

He is getting minutes and impressing, but doesn't rule out heading elsewhere if the opportunities don't continue.

With Josh van der Flier back from injury next week, Cullen will have O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Jack Conan, Rhys Ruddock, Ryan and Leavy to choose from for the Wasps game.

With Jordi Murphy aiming for a comeback before the end of the season, it is an impressive array of players and keeping them happy is quite a challenge.

In an ideal world, IRFU performance director David Nucifora would be able to spread the talent around and, while Leavy concedes that leaving would be difficult, he doesn't rule it out.

"It is difficult for some people," he said. "I was born and raised in Dublin. This is my home. To look somewhere else. . . I wouldn't say it would be impossible. . . but I would prefer to stay here.

"It is the same with a lot of the other backs-rows. It is a struggle. But, everyone is fighting for the same jersey.

"If you keep playing well you can hold onto the jersey as long as you can. It would be more of an inclination to stay and kick-on at Leinster."

Spare part

That starts on Saturday.

"Absolutely, myself and Joe (Schmidt) had a chat and he said a few of the Irish players are off this week. . . I felt a bit like a spare part last week, not doing anything," he said at the launch of Life Style Sports' #FuelThe4th fan experience yesterday.

"It was nice to get a week off, I've played in pretty much every game this year for Leinster but, yeah, I just said I wanted to get a bit more game-time and stay match-fit.

"He said I've been playing very well, we had a chat and he said some things could be a little bit better and stuff like that but, you know, in general he seems quite pleased.

"He said, 'hey, it'd probably be good for you to get a bit of game-time' and I agreed, said perfect and hopped back to Leinster for the rest of the week.

"Hopefully when the squad's announced for the next few games I'll be in again."

Irish Independent

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