Luke Fitzgerald: Early exposure to professional game didn’t cost me

Luke Fitzgerald doesn’t believe his injury-plagued career was the result of his early exposure to the professional game.

The Blackrock graduate was only 18 and had just completed his Leaving Certificate months earlier when he made his senior debut for Leinster, against Edinburgh, in 2006. That career, blighted by regular lengthy spells spent on the sidelines, officially came to an end last month.

Fitzgerald, played for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions but never AIL or for the Leinster ‘A’ side: he jumped at the chance to skip the usual stepping stones when Michael Cheika offered him the either/or option of academy or senior squad training 10 years ago.

“I probably got a bit unlucky, brought some of it upon myself in the initial couple of years in that if you look at how professional the set-up is now, you train so much better. It is a much more professional set-up, much more streamlined, people know way more.

“I was ready. I was way stronger, more powerful and way more balanced than a lot of guys coming out of school and would have had good principles coming from my dad and … a bit of access to Dave Fagan who trains the sub-Academy now from a friend of mine who was training with him.”

The 28-year old was forced to retire from the game last month due to a neck injury picked up during the Guinness PRO12 final loss to Connacht in May having previously flirted with retirement due to knee, neck and abdominal issues in years gone by.

He has no regrets, however, concerning his exposure to a professional game in which he claimed silverware for club and country and he doesn’t believe the litany of injuries to some other senior Irish pros is as a result of any ‘too much too soon’ theory.

“You look at someone like (Leinster and Ireland U20 prop Andrew) Porter and he is in there squatting 350 kilos in the gym.

“How can you tell a fellow like that you are not strong enough to get in the game, you know what I mean?

“With the physicality of the game and how athletes are it is probably no harm to hold them back a year or two but you get such accelerated learning when you are exposed to training and playing with the guys at the top level.

“It is sink or swim there and if guys can play and compete physically at that age it is hard to say no. How do you tell guys like Cian Healy or Sean O’Brien who are coming out of school and marmalising (sic) thirty year olds in contact that they can’t play?”

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