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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Outstanding Leavy seizing his chance with another big shift in green

The Leinster flanker is relishing a first visit to Twickenham next weekend.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium

DAN LEAVY WAS the first to recognise, and acknowledge, the opportunity which lay in front of him when Josh van der Flier’s season was cruelly cut short in Paris, but then seizing that chance is another thing entirely.

Dan Leavy and Gordon Reid Leavy makes a break during today's win over Scotland. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

With Sean O’Brien and Tommy O’Donnell also out of the frame, the door opened for the 23-year-old to stake his long-term claim for the number seven jersey and another colossal shift here reaffirms his pedigree for the job.

Although he wasn’t singled out for praise afterwards by Joe Schmidt, Leavy was again a standout performer for Ireland as they sealed a third Six Nations title in five years with a bonus-point win over Scotland.

The back row was always going to be a ferocious battleground, particularly when the Scottish engine room had wreaked havoc against England, but Leavy, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander worked tirelessly to ensure their influence wasn’t minimised.

While Scotland lost Ryan Wilson early in the contest, captain John Barclay and Hamish Watson still enjoyed relative success over the ball for the visitors, with the pair also making 28 and 25 tackles respectively.

“It was a good match-up, I was looking forward to it all week,” Leavy said. “They’re two quality players and we tried to target them as much as we could, they got over one or two, but again it was a step in the right direction.

“They don’t really do much differently, they just have some really good players over the ball. When they played England the two boys had a bit of a field day. You need to be early into the ruck to make sure they don’t get the opportunity to get set and get into a strong position.”

Leavy, himself, was a menace at the breakdown, no more so than on 17 minutes when he got in a strong position over the ball to force the turnover after Scotland had enjoyed a period of probing territory. His work-rate was also second to none, bringing real energy and aggression all afternoon.

Both O’Mahony and Stander fronted up well around the fringes, as did the impressive Jordi Murphy when introduced, while credit must also go to Wayne Barnes who had an excellent game, with his communication — with players and his fellow officials — coming across strongly on the ref mic.

“It’s brilliant,” Leavy said of the referee’s communication. “I was close to getting a few [turnovers] and I could hear him telling me to release it, and that’s exactly what you want as an openside.

Dan Leavy celebrates after the game The flanker celebrates Ireland's win. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“If he thinks you’re off your feet he’ll tell you and you leave the ball. It’s brilliant for a back row to have that clarity.”

Leavy was also pleased with Ireland’s improved defensive effort, with Schmidt’s side making strides in the right direction in that department after leaking disappointing scores against Italy and Wales.

He continued: “We’re getting closer. We still made a few errors in defence, and it was kind of disappointing we let one in but even at the end we fought very well so we’re getting closer.

“Letting teams back into the game because of silly errors when we get a bit fatigued but I think it is getting better. To concede just one try against a strong attacking team was good.”

And so on to Twickenham and the Grand Slam tilt.

As Leavy dissected his performance in the post-match mixed zone, England were being beaten in Paris, thus handing Ireland the championship title with one week remaining — but all the focus is now on completing the job with a clean sweep.

“We kind of said as a group we want to do something special and we have an opportunity to do that next week,” the former St Michael’s man added.

“Last year England came over to us and we tried to muddy up their celebrations, so I’m sure they’ll try to do the same to us. We have to be prepared.

“I’ve never been to Twickenham, looking forward to it.”

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Ryan Bailey

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