Monday 22 October 2018

'I did some absolutely mental stuff' - Luke Fitzgerald on the rude awakening he got with Leinster when he was 19

23 September 2006; Leinster wing Luke Fitzgerald escapes the clutches of Llanelli Scarlets centre Regan King. Magners Celtic League 2006 - 2007, Llanelli Scarlets v Leinster, Stradley Park, Wales. Picture credit: Tim Parfitt / SPORTSFILE
23 September 2006; Leinster wing Luke Fitzgerald escapes the clutches of Llanelli Scarlets centre Regan King. Magners Celtic League 2006 - 2007, Llanelli Scarlets v Leinster, Stradley Park, Wales. Picture credit: Tim Parfitt / SPORTSFILE
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

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.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud

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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Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud

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