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'I have enjoyed every day here' - No regrets as Fardy prepares for life after Leinster

The Australian is retiring at the end of the season.

Leinster's Scott Fardy.
Leinster's Scott Fardy.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

SCOTT FARDY REALISES how lucky he is. Not every rugby player gets to bow out on their own terms, and even fewer get to walk away from the game with no regrets.

Yet Fardy, who is set to play his last game as professional rugby player when Leinster take on Dragons tomorrow night, is totally at ease with his decision to call it a day.

Earlier this week he sat down for his final press conference as a Leinster player. One of the first questions he was asked was if he has experienced any doubts since announcing his plans to retire at the end of this season.

“No, none at all,” came the quick response. “I don’t wish to do another year, a long winter to be out on the pitch. Leo [Cullen] said to me a few times at this time of year you feel like you can go on forever, but you forget about November, December, January when the weather is awful and it’s raining sideways as you’re running onto the pitch.  

“I was contemplating it (retiring) last year, but I thought I would keep going here because I was enjoying it and was enjoying every day I came into Leinster,” he continues.

“I never wake up and don’t want to come in. I think everyday I spring out of bed – well I don’t know if I spring out of bed, I’m pretty old – but I get out of bed ready to go, ready to come in.

“I have enjoyed every day here. There haven’t really been any tough days here for me. There is always a time… You don’t want to get to the point where your body can’t do anything when you stop playing and I’m still at a point now where I’ll be able to play golf and run with the kids and do things like that. I didn’t want to get to a point where I just completely destroyed the body, and the game is getting more and more physical. It starts to take a toll.”

That physical element is something Fardy has grown increasingly uncomfortable with in recent seasons. While the big Australian is known for his own physical edge on the pitch, he feels the sport is reaching a dangerous tipping point when it comes to the size of the men playing the game. 

I think one of the big things about the game is there are more and more athletes in the game and bigger bodies, so they’ve been growing. And the ball-in-play time is starting to diminish, especially in the north with the way people are lying down for injuries and things like that. The game is slowing down, and it’s getting quite ridiculous, because it just allows those bigger and bigger players to manage their way through 80 minutes.

“Then obviously with substitutions and things like that…I t’s become less of an endurance game and more of a power game, over the last five years especially. With the bigger bodies, the game is getting more and more physical and I think that’s just the direction it’s going.

“I’d definitely like to see that change. I think with the people staying down for injuries, I don’t think we need to stop (the game). Obviously if a guy has got a concussion, we stop, but if they’ve got an injury, just walk to the sideline and get treated, and if you want to come back on you come back on.

“But I don’t see the value in stopping the game. You look at the game (against Glasgow) on the weekend, it was two hours long. I think people lose interest after a certain amount of time and the games are going on for way too long at the moment, with things like TMOs and all that stuff, I think people just switch off.”

scott-fardy Fardy arrived from the Brumbies in 2017. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

A season which promised so much for Leinster has fizzled out since the club added another Pro14 title to their trophy cabinet back in March. A Champions Cup semi-final exit to La Rochelle has been followed by an underwhelming Rainbow Cup campaign, with Leinster heading into tomorrow’s final game of the season with nothing tangible to play for. 

For Fardy, there is at least one final opportunity to run out in front of some supporters, and even if the RDS will be far from full, those in attendance will be keen to show their appreciation for a man who has contributed so much since arriving from the Brumbies back in 2017.

scott-fardy-devin-toner-jack-mcgrath-and-scott-fardy-celebrate-with-the-european-rugby-champions-cup-trophy Fardy celebrates Leinster's Champions Cup win in 2018. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 36-year-old has racked up 79 appearances across four seasons in blue, and will travel back to Australia with four Pro14 winners medals and one Champions Cup medal in his suitcase. 

His influence off the pitch has been just as important, with teammates and coaches alike often referencing the role Fardy has played in the dressing room and on the training pitch.

No surprise, so, that Fardy is hoping to make a swift move into coaching back.

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“I’m trying to get some coaching role sorted, but all in the future,” he says.

“If you’re a coach, I think you’ve got to go straight into it. It’s something that I think I’ve learned a lot here off such great coaches I’ve had here in my time here at Leinster and back in Australia. So I’m grateful for the guys I’ve worked under and hopefully I can learn from my experiences in the game.”

His desire to see others improve and get the best out of themselves is clear, and comes across again when Fardy is asked to name his favourite thing about life at Leinster.

“Winning trophies. That’s something I have really enjoyed, really proud of. Then also seeing guys come through. I have seen some really good players come through in my time here. Some of the young boys have gone on to play for Ireland. Even the other two foreigners (Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe) who were originally non-Irish qualified when I got here.

“To see those go on and play for Ireland and play well has been fantastic.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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