Dan Leavy gets just reward after strange Six Nations snub
Proper order and reward for one hell of a rescue act.
Heading into the Six Nations, and with all due respect to a quality Munster openside, this was the pecking order for Ireland's No.7 jersey:
- Sean O'Brien
- Rhys Ruddock
- Josh van der Flier
- Dan Leavy
- Tommy O'Donnell
With O'Brien and Ruddock battling respective hip and hamstring injuries, Joe Schmidt turned to van der Flier. The Leinster flanker started against France, in Paris, but he only last 24 minutes before badly damaging his knee.
On came Dan Leavy and his first carry settled any nerves, or issues, with whether he was up for the job. A few metres gained and a couple of French players who would think twice before dicing with him again.
58 minutes [including that incredible injury time] of ferocity and breakdown nous against France was followed by excellent outings against Italy, Wales and Scotland. That was all topped at Twickenham, at the weekend, when Leavy blew England out of the water with a near flawless display.
On The Hard Yards [from 40:00 below] Kevin McLaughlin, James Downey and myself raved about the 23-year-old's huge impact to Ireland's Grand Slam charge. And that is just the start, as the accolades are starting to mount for Leavy.
"If you're looking at the squad at the start [of the championship], Leavy was thought of as the third choice No.7," said Downey. "And last week people were debating if he would stay in the team if Sean O'Brien was back but it was like, 'Well where are you going to put Sean? No.' It just shows how far Dan has come, and the squad too."
The plaudits are coming thick and fast for Leavy [see praise from a fellow Grand Slam winner below] but he still missed out on far too many Team of the Tournament selections and Player of the Tournament nominations.
Leavy was sensational, probably forward of the tournament.
— Paddy Wallace (@paddywallace12) March 18, 2018
Will Greenwood, in The Telegraph, went for Wales' Josh Navidi as openside in his Team of the Tournament while Jeremy Guscott, over on the BBC, went for Scotland's Hamish Watson. Stuart Barnes and Stephen Jones both went for Yacouba Camara while their Sunday Times colleague Lawrence Dallaglio opted for Watson.
Thankfully, and wisely, Ugo Monye and Chris Jones decided Leavy would be their No.7 when making up Rugby Union Weekly's best XV. And, as if he needs another boost, the former Ireland U20 captain has made SportsJOE's Team of the Tournament.
It is a small yet just reward for a player flagged as a potential star from his days back at St Michael's College and who has had to fight damn hard for oxygen, and game-time, in a packed provincial back row division.
TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
15. Matteo Minozzi (Italy)
14. Keith Earls (Ireland)
13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Owen Farrell (England)
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)
Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Conor Murray (Ireland)
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
2. Guilhelm Guirdao (France)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Jonny Gray (Scotland)
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
6. Aaron Shingler (Wales)
7. Dan Leavy (Ireland)
8. CJ Stander (Ireland)
Just the 10 Ireland players involved and a couple unlucky to miss out. Joe Schmidt's men did win by 11 points, scored 20 tries, claimed three bonus points and had a points differential more than double their nearest rivals, Wales.