Fardy joins greats of the foreign legion

Of the four provinces, Leinster should be the one least in need of imported talent.

Fardy joins greats of the foreign legion

With the biggest population and a schools system that spits out raw talent by the bundle, the professional arm of the game in the east of the country is efficiently served with the sort of ingredients others can only admire wistfully from afar.

And yet Leinster have always leaned heavily on their global network.

Felipe Contepomi arrived from Buenos Aires via Bristol to charm and bewitch the locals. Isa Nacewa checked in from Auckland and Stan Wright spent five years in Dublin in the middle of a career that took him many miles from the Cook Islands.

The club has competed in ten European Cup semi-finals now and every line-up – from the nine-point loss to Cardiff in late 1995 to Saturday’s evisceration of Scarlets in Ballsbridge - has included at least one man who wasn’t Irish by birth or persuasion.

Four have been won and the link in the chain between that quartet has been one grizzled, veteran southern hemisphere lock or back row: Rocky Elsom in 2009, Nathan Hines two seasons later, Brad Thorn in 2012 and now Scott Fardy.

The presence of this measure of man hasn’t been a guarantee of success at this stage. Hines, for example, was on board eight years ago when a depleted Leinster lost at this stage to Toulouse in the French side’s home city but the face in this particular piece of the jigsaw has usually been critical.

When Munster had their number in 2006, Leinster’s Kiwis were Cameron Jowitt, who had arrived in Dublin at the start of the season with an agreement to do no more than play for Lansdowne, and Bryce Williams who lasted one campaign before leaving for Bourgoin.

So, what we can say is that Leinster have never been able to reach a European Cup decider without the considerable input of a beefy, edgy, powerful forward with an Antipodean accent and a bumper sticker that reads, ‘been there, done that’.

When Toulon squeaked by them after extra-time in Marseilles three years ago, it was an all-Irish pack and Hayden Triggs, a decent and honest but far from top-drawer player, was at lock 12 months ago when they fell five points short to Clermont Auvergne.

And so to Fardy.

The comparisons with Messrs Elsom etc have been put to him more than once already this season and, though he has dismissed them all with an atypical Aussie modesty, there is little evidence to think otherwise.

You could argue the case for James Ryan, Robbie Henshaw and a few others but it was Fardy who got the official nod for man of the match two days ago and it was, whatever its worth in relative terms to his teammates, a damn impressive individual effort.

Fardy was an option at lineout; he popped up as an auxiliary scrum-half now and again, scored a try while having another ruled out and generally made himself a right old pain in the arse for the likes of Tahdg Beirne and James Davies.

“He was outstanding,” said Rob Kearney who has seen so many imports, whether good, bad or ugly, come and go. “He’s one of those four (Leinster) lads who was nominated for player of the tournament as well so he’s shown a consistency throughout.

“The most impressive thing about Scott is off the field, what he’s doing with the younger guys and his coaching and mentoring.

“The manner in which he turned up (on Saturday) was incredible and a massive credit to him.” It’s not that all these southern hemisphere grunts are peas from the same pod.

Jonathan Sexton laughed on Saturday about how Fardy probably doesn’t train as hard in the gym as the famously fanatical Thorn. “I don’t think he goes to the gym, actually,” the ten joked. But their impact can be measured with the same tape.

If Nacewa has had the greatest overall effect then others have influenced in their own ways. For Sexton, to name one, it was Contepomi who did so much to shape him as an out-half.

Another common trait they share is their quality as a person as well as a player.

Dan Leavy talked last week about how Fardy’s different background had allowed him pollinate the Leinster camp with some new viewpoints and Sexton has little doubt but that these small seeds have helped produce a thriving collective culture.

“Rob touched on it: he’s been immense on and off the pitch, through the Six Nations and the November internationals. This is why it’s so important the club sign these quality foreigners and professionals.

“I don’t think James Ryan would be the player he’s been this season without Scott helping him along, those back row guys as well.

He coaches them, gives them advice, he’s been brilliant.

“He’s had a huge impact in the group.”

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