Dan Leavy presses his case with a timely intervention
Leinster flanker may well have played himself into the starting side to face the All Blacks
Ireland’s Dan Leavy in possession during the clash against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium. Niall Carson/PA
“I’ll get the microscope out and have a decent look,” said Joe Schmidt of what Ireland team tussles with the All Blacks.
If, as the evidence increasingly suggests, timing is everything in rugby then Dan Leavy unearthed both form and fitness at the perfect moment.
The generational crossover with Seán O’Brien may never happen now.
Kearney, at home icing his shoulder, witnessed Jordan Larmour allowing a bounce in the dead ball area. Schmidt provided an excuse – “Boffelli goes up waving one hand at it – that’s very hard for Jordan to get that clean” – but this is a droppable offence for fullbacks at any level regardless of the 21-year-old’s gliding ability. Also, he continues to dance down isolated tunnels.
Toner replaced Iain Henderson on 58 minutes to calm aerial concerns which will be repeatedly targeted by the Brodie Retallick lineout that humiliated England and Kieran Read’s rushing restart leaps.
Leavy’s return, and O’Brien’s cursed disappearance into rehab hell, produced a ball-stealing cameo that should keep Josh van der Flier at arm’s length
“Your main man wasn’t there and maybe that meant there was confusion,” said Argentina coach Mario Ledesma about Toner or Beirne. “I don’t want to put pressure on selection!”
A conversation is needed about the hooker.
Bundee Aki’s share price increased, due to Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring wobble in the warm-up, as much as Ringrose, another absentee nursing a hip problem, despite Will Addison’s impressive debut.
Schmidt’s scrumhalf picture is muddied by both auditions, along with Kieran Marmion’s ankle injury, but if Conor Murray declares himself fit this morning all bets are off.
“He is doing contact,” Schmidt confirmed. Otherwise Luke McGrath has a chance. “It’s not the injury,” Schmidt explained further. “It’s really how ready Conor is and how fully fit he is. It is tough to throw him into a game of this magnitude, so it’s highly unlikely that he will be involved.”
But Leavy’s return, and O’Brien’s cursed disappearance into rehab hell, produced a ball-stealing cameo that should keep Josh van der Flier at arm’s length.
“Not long after Dan came on he gave up a bit of an unlucky penalty,” said Schmidt. Leavy did cough up a penalty with his astonishing double hit on Pablo Matera and the recipient of the Puma flanker’s offload, Emiliano Boffelli.
“He clipped Boffelli, if he had of been able to play the ball it might have been play on. His competitiveness, how combative and keen he is to get involved, I thought he did a really good job. He carried down the left a few times, through the middle a few times, defensively he was strong, got some pressure on the ball. That’s what you want from a seven.”
Schmidt, as ever, mentioned Van der Flier’s Chicago showing in the same breath.
“It’s an uncomfortable decision that has to be made,” he added of what four/five survive from Leavy, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan and Henderson/Beirne.
“Joe rang me up and just said, ‘You haven’t played,’” Leavy revealed about redirection to South Africa with Leinster last week. “It was completely fair enough. I needed 80 minutes under my belt.
“We are going to have a few really competitive sessions early next week. It’s the top-ranked team versus the second-ranked team so I’d love to play. There’s so many lads, so many variations that could come up. Josh has been playing really well, all the boys in Chicago had serious games as well.”
Timing has not always been Leavy’s friend – he lost valuable ground in preseason to Van der Flier – but his brilliance in Saturday’s second half with two textbook turnovers, punishing carries, vicious clear-outs and chop tackling makes him an irresistible selection to square up to Ardie Savea.
Dreamed about facing the All Blacks?