'I did some absolutely mental stuff' - Luke Fitzgerald on the rude awakening he got with Leinster when he was 19
Luke Fitzgerald left school in 2006 as one of Irish rugby's brightest ever prospects - but it wasn't all smooth sailing for then 19-year-old professional.
Fitzgerald was handed his debut for Leinster just a few months after finishing his Leaving Cert, and immediately caught the eye with his devastating attack bursts.
However, one early away day with his province proved particularly eye-opening for the prodigious talent.
Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Fitzgerald described a heavy defeat to Scarlets in 2006 as a big learning experience for his career.
Picked on the right wing, Fitzgerald bamboozled a number of Scarlets defenders - but frustrated his team-mates with some loose and risky passes.
"I felt like I belonged there 100%, I was completely delusional about my ability at that point," Fitzgerald says of breaking into the Leinster team at 19.
"I believe you should back yourself 100%. It took me a year or two to figure out how to get in the team and stay in the team. I thought I was an absolute superstar coming out of school.
"I remember playing a match over in the Scarlets and we got pumped. I did some really cool stuff but I did some absolutely mental stuff. I stepped two guys but none of my team-mates knew what I was doing because I didn't really either. It was like I was in school.
"I stepped two guys, a nice bit of play, and Gary Brown was outside me in a good support position. I had it in my mind that he would be running one way and I try this behind the back pass that is intercepted. They didn't score a try from it but I had a few mistakes like that."
It was a conversation with one Leinster veteran afterwards that made him realise that he needed to slightly curb his attacking tendencies to become a regular starter.
"I remember talking to Emmet Byrne [Leinster prop] afterwards and he just said 'relax, you need to play the percentages now and then to survive'. It was one of those light bulb moments and I changed a bit off the back of it."
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