When cool Dan Leavy had the fright of his life

Joe Schmidt spoke yesterday about how some of his players might have been spooked during Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina in 2015, but Dan Leavy doesn’t fit the bill as the type to take fright on the field.

When cool Dan Leavy had the fright of his life

“Nah. I don’t think I would be,” he said. “I’m very jumpy if someone jumps out, like, to scare me in a different scenario. Anything like that I’m very, very jumpy, but in terms of before a game? No, I wouldn’t be.”

It’s a good thing for Leinster and Ireland, then, that he’s never been required to take a seat on a ghost train, but he did backtrack on his stance that rugby had never put the frighteners on him.

It happened in March of last year. Leavy only had 13 minutes of international rugby under his belt, against Canada, when he travelled to London with Schmidt’s squad as 24th man. Warm-up done, he was making for the shower and a protein shake when Jamie Heaslip pulled up crook.

“I was kinda walking in, expecting Joe to tell me: ‘Aw, you might get an opportunity next year, blah, blah, blah.’

“Then it was: ‘Here’s the 20 jersey, you’re in.’ I was talking about not getting spooked and then a few minutes later it’s like: ‘Listen, here we go.’

“So, it was a pretty big flip. Two minutes later, I’m walking out in the tunnel for the biggest game of the season, fireworks going off and big fires and everything...”

Leavy being Leavy, he soon settled. Another 14 minutes were banked that day, as a replacement for Sean O’Brien, and the current absences of the Carlow man, Heaslip, Josh van der Flier, and Rhys Ruddock have paved the way for the St Michael’s back row to get his mitts on the No 7 jersey.

His talent is obvious. A poacher par excellence, he will have those abilities measured against a Welsh back row that has absorbed the unavailability of key players while losing little of its potency. Knowing when to poach and when to stand up will be a test.

“If there is an opportunity, go and take it, but you can’t go throwing yourself into rucks where you could be potentially pinged. If you jump into a ruck where the outcome of winning the ball isn’t likely, then you are going to put your other defenders under more pressure.

“It’s about picking your battles. It’s something that Stu Lancaster would always say to me when I am playing for Leinster and it is something that I try to bring into this set-up as well. Joe is hot on it as well, and [defence coach] Andy Farrell.”

Leavy also brings physicality and decent hands to the table and he demonstrated an ability to bend a club game to his will when creating all sorts of havoc at ruck time against Munster when Leinster visited Limerick over the Christmas.

His performance off the bench in Paris at the start of this Six Nations was another notable step up the ladder and he has declared himself ready to push on from dependable deputy to chief bottle washer.

“I’ve had a few starts now and I really want to kick on and become one of the first names on the teamsheet in this team,” he said, like a guy in a hurry, his words delivered in business-like fashion, even when the tone is lighter.

He laughs when asked about his fellow St Michael’s alumnus James Ryan. “He’s just a weird lad. He refers to himself as The Big Cheese.”

England’s Ben Te’o, a former teammate at Leinster, is another cut down clinically.

Te’o has been quoted this week dismissing the relevance of past meetings between England Scotland. “That’s pretty funny, Te’o not knowing about the Calcutta Cup, but then he is pretty much Australian, so, that’s fair enough.”

Yet, Leavy knows there is a time and a place for talking the talk. He may have impressed again in the mostly routine filleting of Conor O’Shea’s Italy two weekends ago, but he knew well he was at fault for one of the three Italian tries claimed after the interval.

Schmidt even referenced his error publicly.

“There were a few things wrong in the defensive system,” said Leavy.

“We had a bit of wastage in the breakdown and stuff like that, but I had to get him. I put my hand up for that [Monday review] meeting and said it was on me and that it wasn’t good enough.

“We can’t afford lapses in concentration like that against Wales,” he admitted.

Confidence won’t be an issue anyway. Not with Leavy.

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