Master and Apprentice

'He makes me feel incredibly stupid': Fardy excited by Dunne's potential

The young second row, who is studying theoretical physics, has recently made his senior breakthrough at Leinster.

EVEN AHEAD OF a potential Leinster debut on the recent Guinness Pro14 trip to Zebre, Jack Dunne didn’t waste any opportunity to catch up on his academic studies, using the plane journey to glance over lecture notes. 

The 20-year-old second row was firmly in rugby mode, preparing to make his first senior appearance for Leo Cullen’s side off the bench, but any spare minutes he has away from duty is spent catching up on his college work. 

Jack Dunne Dunne has made two senior appearances for Leinster. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Dunne is currently juggling theoretical physics in Trinity College with his rugby apprenticeship through the Leinster academy and despite his high intellect, the nature of the course means he can’t afford to put academic work to one side at any stage during the season.  

The former St Michael’s College man achieved 625 points in his Leaving Certificate and not only received a rugby scholarship from Trinity but is one of 36 students in the country to be part of the prestigious Naughton Foundation.

“It is basically physics with loads and loads of maths,” he explained recently. “When I was choosing what course I was going to do, I thought about business. In the end, I didn’t find it interesting. I always found physics interesting, spending time on YouTube watching random stuff, like black holes and the likes.”

Talented off the pitch, and now very much excelling on it.

His study notes left Scott Fardy, who was sitting beside him on the plane over to Italy, more than a little bemused but Dunne is not the only high-achiever within the Leinster set up, with Josh Murphy studying medicine and sub-academy member Cormac Daly is studying astrophysics in UCD.

“He makes me feel incredibly stupid,” Fardy laughed, in conversation with The42.

“Theoretical physics. I sat next to him on the plane the other day and some of the stuff he was looking at was just blowing my mind, I could never start to begin what he’s doing with that stuff.”

Dunne, a member of last year’s Ireland U20s side, was an unused sub in the Pro14 win over Scarlets last month before getting his opportunity in Parma, coming off the bench in the final minutes of the province’s 40-24 victory.

Against the Southern Kings last Friday, an injury to Mick Kearney early in the second half presented Dunne with a big chance to show his worth alongside Ross Molony, playing 38 minutes of the nine-try rout at the RDS. 

“He’s capable,” Fardy continues. “He was surprised to get the amount of minutes he got on the weekend but Jack did an excellent job.”

Having impressed for the Leinster ‘A’ side during their Celtic Cup campaign earlier in the season, Dunne is looking to develop his lineout calling in addition to his noted rucking and carrying ability. 

The 6ft 7in lock is a natural athlete and has already showed his dynamism around the field, while his academic and rugby intellect gives him a solid footing to fine-tune his role as a lineout operator. 

Jack Dunne The second row in training yesterday. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“You start with where abouts you are on the field,” he says. “You would have a plan as to what lineouts I am going to call in each position.

“You are not going through a list of 100 calls in your head. You would have three or four. You see what the opposition are doing and you make your call based off that.”

One of four former St Michael’s students currently competing for opportunities in Leinster’s second row department alongside James Ryan, Molony and Oisin Dowling, Dunne will be hoping for further game time when Cullen’s side host the Cheetahs on Friday night [KO 7.35pm, eir Sport/Premier Sports].

Fardy, who yesterday confirmed he will remain at Leinster next season, is due to return to the starting XV for the round 17 clash at the RDS, and will add welcome experience to the ranks at a time when the province are without their international front-liners.

“I don’t know if I help the young lads that much, to be honest,” the 34-year-old insisted.

“They’re good guys, they come from good families and they’re well able to adjust. They have their heads screwed on and I don’t think they need me to help them, they’re pretty smart guys.  

They’re such talented rugby players already and, yeah, there might be some conversations we can have but look at the back row that played on the weekend [Josh Murphy, Mex Deegan and Caelan Doris], they were excellent. They’re all playing good footy, there’s not much I can do to help them.

“It’s a credit to the schools and the system here, they do such a good job with them, and the Leinster academy and the way that churns players out. They come in not only physically ready to play but also with pretty good mental skills.”

Although his humility means Fardy will downplay his role within the Leinster dressing room and the influence he has on the squad’s younger players, his commitment for the 2019/20 season is a major fillip for Cullen.

The Australian has been outstanding since his arrival in Dublin two years ago and not only played an integral part in the province’s fourth European crown last season, but continues to be a talismanic figure in all aspects for Leinster. 

His form has been such that there were suggestions that Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika might recall Fardy for the World Cup, but the 39-time capped international says he has not received any contact from the former Leinster boss.

Scott Fardy Fardy speaking to the media at UCD. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Instead, he is firmly focused on producing big performances in the blue jersey, starting this Friday, but also heading into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster on 30 March.

The non-European player rule meant Fardy had to settle for roles off the bench in the opening two rounds of pool action, before missing out completely on the back-to-back games against Bath before Christmas.

But 15 appearances this term is up with where he was at last season and Fardy is experienced enough to appreciate the situation and understand the need to make himself undroppable for the Aviva Stadium showdown next month.

“James [Lowe] and Jamison [Gibson-Park] have been playing such good footy,” he continues. “Yes, frustrated not playing those games but happy to see those guys playing well and being part of a squad that was winning.

“I want to see them go as well as much as I want myself to play well. That rule is in place but it’s a credit to the guys in my position, they’ve played well to keep me out and keep me out of that squad 23.”

Overall, he’s enjoying his second season at Leinster: “I’ve really enjoyed it. Still playing the same amount of games but it’s a whole squad effort and we understand the wins we get in these periods and other periods in the season when the international players are away is so important to what happens when the trophies are handed out and our ability to manage those late-season games.

“The focus for us this week is just on performance. I thought the guys played well in parts [against the Kings] and obviously, there were areas we could have done better but to put 60 points away at the RDS was pretty good. We’re just looking to focus on our performance and make sure everything we do is clinical.

“It’s the last game that they’re [Ireland players] are away this season so we want to them proud and do each other proud.”

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