There has been no shortage of praise for Leinster’s latest batch of youth, but to watch Max Deegan give another Man-of-the-Match performance yesterday in Ballsbridge could make you think that they perhaps haven’t been lauded enough.
Deegan was sensational against Lyon. He made 21 carries for 71 metres, a distance bettered only by Garry Ringrose.
Two of those runs amounted to clean line breaks and six defenders were beaten. He claimed a try as well — his seventh in just 13 outings this season and fifth in his last three games.
This is jaw-dropping stuff from the 23-year-old Dubliner who was first marked out for big things when he was named Player of the Tournament at the 2016 U20 World Cup when Ireland reached the final, but whose senior career has really caught fire this season.
Deegan can do the dirty work as well, and he is versatile enough to be an option elsewhere in the back row. Test rugby surely can’t be far away now.
“Nothing really majorly changed,” he said.
“I’ve just been focusing on getting more consistency and nailing down my role and then just trying to get my hands on the ball, really. It varies, depending on what position I’m playing in, how I am going to approach the game and stuff.”
It was Leo Cullen who remarked that the Man of the Match in Leinster’s last three games has been their No.8. He was wrong.
Caelan Doris did get the nod away to Munster, but it was Rhys Ruddock who was announced over the tannoy towards the end of their win over Connacht.
Plenty felt that it should have been Deegan, but none of that takes from the overall picture. Leinster have Dan Leavy and Jack Conan out with long-term injuries.
They had Scott Penny, Will Connors, and Josh Murphy in the stands yesterday, and Doris started on the bench.
The competition for places in that back row — Josh van der Flier was at openside here with Scott Fardy in as a lock — is lethal, and it is evidenced most in the see-saw battle for the No.8 jersey between Deegan and Doris, who were both called up for the Ireland ‘stock-take’ late last month.
“It is visible for most people to see,” said Cullen.
“Those close (selection) calls, they know, and they know what’s coming around the corner as they were both in that Irish camp that assembled just before Christmas so they are getting a little bit closer to that.
“I’ve been in that position before as a younger player, coming through and wanting to take that next step. They are doing everything in their powers to try and do that. The competition is good. It is really positive.”