Leavy made his return for Leinster last weekend. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'He can do it all' - O'Connell backs Dan Leavy as a Lions bolter

The 26-year-old made his return from injury for Leinster last weekend.

PAUL O’CONNELL HAS backed Leinster flanker Dan Leavy as a bolter for next year’s Lions tour.

The 26-year-old Ireland international made his long-awaited return from a knee injury for Leinster against Zebre last weekend, playing 30 minutes as he brought to a close a period of more than 18 months on the sidelines.

While ex-Lions captain O’Connell underlined that these are still early days for Leavy, he believes the openside has the qualities required to tour South Africa as part of Warren Gatland’s squad – if he can manage his recovery over the coming months.

O’Connell feels that Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Garry Ringrose, and Johnny Sexton are the only “nailed-on” Irish players to tour at this stage.

“I think the bolter is Dan Leavy,” said official Vodafone British & Irish Lions ambassador O’Connell. “There are certain players who can do certain things, but there are very few that can do it all and he can do it all.

“I watched the game the other night and every time he carried I was seeing did he hold his knee or get up tentatively – he didn’t at all. He seemed to be very confident about what he was doing around his knee. He is just going to have to be a clever boy about that knee and not too brave.

“Leinster will be good for him in managing that. There are a few great players coming through in Irish rugby at the moment and a very small amount of them will be world-class straight away and I think he is one of them.

“So he’d be my Lions bolter if he can stay fit and stay strong because he can do it all.”

dan-leavy-and-javier-ortega-desio Leavy has 11 caps for Ireland so far. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Leavy’s Leinster team-mates were understandably thrilled to watch the flanker make his return, with Ireland second row James Ryan sharing his delight.

“I was so excited for him,” said Ryan. “I found myself smiling for the whole last 20 when he was on. Just under 19 months, it has been a long and hell of a ride for him but I actually thought he looked really sharp when he came on.

“He didn’t look like somebody who had not played in so long. So, it is fantastic that he is back in the mix.

“I missed him even on a personal level, not being able to play alongside him every week, as I know how good a player he is. Having him back fit is only good news for Leinster and then Ireland.”

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