Thursday 14 December 2017

Small steps before any giant leaps for Leavy

Dan Leavy isn’t looking beyond Zebre tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy isn’t looking beyond Zebre tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Dan Leavy. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

It is never nice to start any interview on the back foot, but it's where we find ourselves.

Looking back on a 23-13 loss away to the Dragons and a yellow card for good measure, it wasn't exactly the most pleasant of experiences for 21-year-old Dan Leavy. But all part of the journey.

"At this stage in my career I think I have to take a longer term view of it and it has to be small steps now with a view to the bigger picture.

"I'm sure all of the lads will tell you this but for those of us that little bit younger, this season was about targeting the World Cup period and then the Six Nations period and making sure that you were in a position to challenge for a spot.

"The game against the Dragons didn't go to plan either personally or collectively but I am hugely of the mind that you learn more from your defeats than your wins and last Friday week was a great example of that."

What are those learnings?

"Well for me and the yellow card you just can't do that. OK, there were a couple of team infringements before that but you have to be mindful of that too and I wasn't. Ultimately, my decision put the team under huge pressure and in a game like that in those conditions where the energy is being drained with every tackle … well it's just compounded when you have a man down.


"I think collectively we will look back on it and realise that when you get chances you have to take them. We had plenty of possession but couldn't convert and we have to look at our execution and our accuracy.

"The process to get us into those positions isn't a million miles off but obviously a few times this season we haven't capitalised. So for a relatively young group we have to learn. We have to be better."

It doesn't help to have a week off to stew on those disappointments but while it came as a welcome relief, the game tonight against Zebre can't come quick enough.

"I managed to get away with a group of lads to Prague. Some old friends from school but also some of the other Leinster lads were in the mix as well. Rory O'Loughlin, Josh Murphy, Sean McNulty, Charlie Rock. Twelve of us in total.

"It was great to get away, a great city, superb architecture, huge amount of bridges! We went on a Segway tour as well so that was good craic but it's funny it wouldn't be long before you'd start thinking of the next game or even before that, getting back into training on Monday morning."

His affection for Prague architecture can be taken with a pinch of salt but one thing that is genuine is the affection for fellow team-mates.

"You work with them day in, day out and you might think that it would be good to get a clean break but the reality is that we all get on in Leinster. We also all have the same time off so it would be difficult trying to fit a random week off in February with other mates who might be in work or whatever. So quite often we go on holidays together. It's good craic."

With Zebre coming to the RDS tonight, a Guinness Pro12 run-in and the final few months of his Business and Legal Studies degree in UCD to occupy his mind, I'd wager it might be the last bit of 'craic' he sees for a while.

"Yeah, you could say that! Obviously all our focus in Leinster is getting back on track this Friday.

"We can't afford to look too far ahead as we know that Zebre have been better this season than in years gone by. They have already won more games this year than last season and went well in the Challenge Cup, finishing in second place in their pool.

"But this is a crucial block of games during the Six Nations and we have to look to pick up as many points as possible. The Dragons game was a bad start but we're all gunning for an opportunity on Friday and I'm looking forward to getting more minutes under my belt."

Last season it was a debut off the bench against Edinburgh followed by two more appearances as a sub against Zebre and the Ospreys.

This season has seen him take further steps. A first start away to Edinburgh, followed by two further starts and three appearances off the bench.

He has also been to the fore in a great British & Irish Cup pool campaign that finished six from six with a home quarter-final to come and with the young back-row as top try scorer in the tournament. He has also featured for his club UCD as they ride high in the AIL.


"Yeah I've been happy enough with how things have gone. The B&I Cup experience has been great and we all look at those that have gone before us and cut their cloth in the B&I. Look at Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan as the most recent examples. Lads who now have Irish caps.

"So I have looked at that as a perfect window to get experience and game-time under my belt and we now have a great shot on the 12th March in Donnybrook when we play London Welsh in the quarter-final.

"If we win that, it's a home semi-final for us as well so that is plenty of reason to focus the minds.


"To then get a first start was another step but it's like everything, once you get one you want another, but I think we have all seen how willing Leo has been to put his faith in the younger lads and I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and the run-in."

Before that though there is the small matter of the major 'craic' killer. Study.

"I've three-and-a-half years done in Business and Legal Studies in UCD and I've enjoyed it. I think it gives a great foundation whether that be for a future career in law or in business or accounting or whatever.

"But the next few months will be tough. I've just got to make sure that the network around me is good and that I can lean on them when needs be for help with regard to the notes or catching up. But I will have to pass the same exams as everyone else so it will be back on me."

Back to learning and personal responsibility. Whether it be Zebre or in UCD, all part of the Leinster Rugby cycle.

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