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Leinster confident Max Deegan can pick up where he left off

‘He’s a proper footballer. He’s got great skills but also he has put on a bit of size.’

Deegan made is Leinster comeback last weekend.
Deegan made is Leinster comeback last weekend.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LAST WEEKEND AT the Aviva Stadium, Max Deegan gave a few reminders of the ability that earned him an Ireland debut in the 2020 Six Nations.

The 25-year-old has only played six times since that first Test cap against Wales, with the pandemic and then a long-term ACL injury preventing him from pushing on.

But Deegan is now back fully fit and made his return for Leinster off the bench against the Bulls in round one of the URC last weekend, being sprung off the bench earlier than expected due to Caelan Doris’ calf injury.

Deegan had an early surge with ball-in-hand as he showed his appetite to get stuck in, there were two later examples of his superb footwork to beat defenders, while he also made two passes, completed his three tackle attempts, won a lineout, and hit plenty of rucks.

There were errors too, as would have been expected, but it was a happy return for Deegan, who now gets a chance to start at number eight tomorrow away to the Dragons.

Leinster believe that the number eight can now get back on the upward trajectory he was enjoying back in 2020 despite the competition for places in the province.

“I’m pretty confident,” said senior coach Stuart Lancaster. “It’s an incredibly competitive position if you look at Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Rhys Ruddock can play at eight, Dan Leavy can play at eight, there are a few others as well.

“So it’s tough, but that’s going to bring the best out of Max. He rises to a challenge and he loves the big occasion and I was really pleased for him.

leinsters-max-deegan Deegan is out to make up for lost time.

“I said to him after the game I was really pleased. Coming on in a game like that after having the injury he had and being out for so long, he wasn’t afraid to take the game up and take the ball into the line and do all the things we know he can do really well.

“He’s a wonderful footballer but he’s a really good athlete and he’s very good at taking the line on, as Jack and Caelan are as well, so I think he’s looked at those two and realised he’s going to have to play out of his skin in every game, every training session, and that will bring the best out of Max. He thrives on that challenge.”

Deegan’s team-mates are happy to see him back after the long slog of rehabbing an ACL injury, with his fellow former St Michael’s man James Ryan backing him to make a big impact this season.

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Ryan recalls Deegan playing at inside centre at one stage in school and has been impressed with the back row’s confidence in bouncing back from injury.

“I think he can be a seriously, seriously good player,” said Ryan. “I think he’s a real typical number eight. The back row is such a competitive position obviously.

“But there are probably only one or two you could say are pure number eights and he probably falls into that category, he’s a proper footballer. He’s got great skills but also since he’s been injured, I don’t know if you noticed that he has put on a bit of size.

“He’s up there with the biggest back row we have now, he looks like a big ball-carrying number eight and even out there against the Bulls, he looked big.

“It’s great to have him back. With the competition around him, he’s only going to get better and hopefully, touch wood, he’s able to stay injury-free.”

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Murray Kinsella

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