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Dan Leavy's successful return is good news for Leinster and Ireland

The 26-year-old impressed as he got through 57 minutes of action for the province last night.

Leavy was at blindside flanker for Leinster against Edinburgh.
Leavy was at blindside flanker for Leinster against Edinburgh.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DAN LEAVY IS DIFFERENT to other players.

He’s different in his dealings with the media for starters. There is no timidness or fear of saying the ‘wrong’ thing. The 26-year-old is a confident young man who is happy to respond to questions he doesn’t like with a question of his own, or to simply dismiss them. His candour is refreshing.

More importantly, he’s different on the pitch. The Leinster back row’s self-belief is highly evident in the way he carries himself in games. There is an infectious edge to his play, an undertone of savagery that has helped him become a world-class player and a Grand Slam winner.

In many ways, he is similar to Seán O’Brien in fearing no opponent and genuinely believing he is among the very best. Both are men you would want in your team if you have plans to win.

Leavy is, of course, still on the pathway back towards his peak after his recent 18-month spell on the sidelines due to his horror knee injury but those mental elements seemingly remain intact.

And so, Leo Cullen and Andy Farrell will have felt excitement watching Leavy get through 57 minutes of action on his first Leinster start since March 2019 in last night’s hammering of Edinburgh. Leavy’s performance won’t win him World Rugby player of the year but there were many promising hints that he is moving in the right direction.

Edinburgh decided to drop the first kick-off of the game directly onto Leavy but he responded with a solid carry, pirouetting away from the first defender for a positive outcome.

In the 14th minute, Leavy played a key role in Leinster’s opening try.

As they counter-attack following an Edinburgh overthrow at a close-range lineout, we can see Leavy cleverly working ahead of the ball.

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Jimmy O’Brien grubber kicks forward and though Edinburgh gather the ball, Ciarán Frawley and Luke McGrath tackle Jack Blain to create a possible turnover opportunity.

Scott Penny is actually first to the breakdown but we can see Leavy’s eagerness for his first turnover since returning from injury as he bumps his team-mate out of the way.

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“He [Penny] was not too happy with that!” said Leavy with a smile post-match. “I’m looking forward to seeing that on the tape.

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“I had one hand on it, he had one hand, I took it off him. I thought it was Dave Kearney actually at the start because he carried on the next phase. I am counting that as mine.”

Leavy comes away with the clean turnover and dummies a pass to Devin Toner before fending into the tackle. On the next phase, he’s back on his feet to pass to O’Brien, who delivers a second grubber for Kearney’s try.

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Leavy was Leinster’s top ball-carrier last night with 16 carries for a total of 68 metres.

He beat six defenders, with all of those instances coming off Edinburgh restarts as they repeatedly kicked on top of him after Leinster’s eight tries.

While Leavy was less busy with his tackling, making three in total, this was a very happy return to the starting XV.

“It did feel good,” said Leavy. “The last couple of weeks I have been building towards a start. Accumulating those minutes every week has made that transition back towards playing a lot easier for me. I wasn’t thrown in the deep end.”

Leavy’s knee feels good and he is in excellent condition strength-wise.

“I’m probably in a better spot physically than I was before I got injured. I’ve been working for the whole year in the gym with my physio Karl [Denver], who has been awesome the whole way through. I’m probably a little bit stronger.

“My body feels good, I’m just trying to get that durability now that I struggled to get the season before I got injured, I had up and downs, so just trying to make sure that I’m always on the pitch and I’m always ready to go.”

Leavy says he hasn’t heard much from Ireland head coach Farrell, who is obviously busy with a hectic autumn schedule, but there is no doubt he will have been watching the flanker’s return with serious interest.

When he’s asked if he feels he would be ready to return to the Ireland mix soon, you get the sense that Leavy would love the chance.

“That’s a good question. Yeah, I’d do my best. I feel like I’m finding my feet quite well.

“You know, it’s not something I’m thinking about, it’s not in my control, so as far as I see it we’ve got a game against Cardiff on Sunday night here [at the RDS], so I’m looking forward to that and if things change, things change.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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