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Leinster’s Dan Leavy eager to make up for lost time

Flanker fully recovered from ankle injury and looking forward to taking on Ulster

Dan Leavy: fit again and looking forward to pushing for a place in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Last April Dan Leavy edged out Ireland’s Josh van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock to earn a start in the back row at blindside alongside Jack Conan and Seán O’Brien for Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps.

In the semi-final and after 11 tackles against Wasps, he was there again, this time with Rhys Ruddock and Conan. Endorsed by Stephen Ferris as an outstanding talent, the then 22-year-old was making gains. Joe Schmidt crooked his finger and Leavy was on Ireland’s summer tour.

But after the Cardiff Blues Pro 14 match in September, Leavy was forced to have surgery on an injured ankle. Now back, the November international series (the first game v South Africa on November 12th) looks inviting. But today he is in a low key, wary mood.

His first tackle against Glasgow last week was forgivably rash but in his 30 minute shift his tally was 11 tackles. Leavy left his mark.

“It was the first game back for me, that’s probably not an excuse,” he says self critically. “Bit of rush of blood. I knew straight away what I had done. But I’m looking to right the wrongs this week against Ulster, make sure I’m squeaky clean again.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” he adds of the tackle count. “I did do my review. I didn’t count how many tackles I got.”

Ulster is an opportunity. Leavy knows it. There is an element of a race against time but Joe Schmidt knows what he is dealing with in the flanker. He had a good look up close during Ireland’s summer tour in the US and Japan.

Leavy carries significant credits with the Irish management. He also knows the way Schmidt thinks and the type of demands the Ireland coach makes on his players.

“What Joe likes is someone that if he is given a job will complete his job and do what serves the team best,” says Leavy.

Big performances

“Joe makes it very clear before each game what he wants to see from you. If you deliver he will be happy with you and if you go off doing your own thing then obviously he’s not going to be too pleased.

“All I can do is keep trucking. Try and put in some big performances. I think we have Ulster then Glasgow away and then into the November break. It’s not really in my hands.

“The injury . . . there’s never a good time to get injured but it was pretty frustrating so again all I have to do is put up my hand and try to get back in.”

In Ulster this week Leinster face a team in questionable form. What happened to Jonno Gibbes and Les Kiss that in La Rochelle their team leaked over 40 points. Self-recrimination, probably, a dent in confidence, unlikely, a bounce back, definitely says Leavy.

After harrowing defeats like that teams tend to go back to first principles and a response from Ulster is the reaction Leinster should expect in Kingspan Stadium.

Leinster have lost the last five games in Belfast. In that respect, Leo Cullen after two wins from two in Europe, will be asking Leinster not to allow this fixture to become a millstone that weighs heavier year by year.

“You can suffer a heavy loss and stay down or bounce back,” says Leavy. “I’m sure Ulster will, so we have to be primed – they’re hurt but they are a pretty potent Ulster team. They will bounce back. I’m sure of that. We have to be ready for a serious physical encounter.”

For a few moments amid references to bouncing back, refusing to stay down and being ready, it sounds like Leavy might be talking about himself.