'It would be foolish to take Dan Leavy out just to throw Sean O'Brien in'
Monday of a European Cup semi final and Dan Leavy is in good spirits. Scott Fardy is doing his best to give enough without giving anything away when, through a window beside the conference room door, Leavy appears with a broad grin.
The 24-year-old is having the season of his life, so far, and is just a month off helping Ireland to a Grand Slam.
Fardy exits the scene and Fardy takes his seat, remarking how it is 'bloody roasting in here'. There are still gash marks around his right eye but he looks fresh from the weekend off playing duty. Leinster lost to Treviso in the Guinness PRO14 but the flanker stresses how past losses and victories are irrelevant. Leinster are focused on what is coming next and, this Saturday, it is Scarlets in a hotly-anticipated last four clash.
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster revealed, on Monday, that Sean O'Brien is '50/50' to face Scarlets and said there is a chance his side could yet accommodate the Carlow native and Leavy in the back row.
The prospect of O'Brien and Leavy being in a straight shoot-out for the No.7 jersey was discussed on The Hard Yards [from 13:00 below].
"If there is one man that can come back in and start after being out for a while," I said, "it'd be Sean O'Brien. You could have him in from the start [against Scarlets] and he'd do okay but he's only played 40 minutes and his season has been so injury-hit.
"I can see him being on the bench ahead of someone like Max Deegan but it would be foolish to take Dan Leavy out of the mix just to throw Sean O'Brien in."
Former Munster and Ireland centre James Downey agreed, adding:
"It's amazing, and I know we've spoken about it before, but we're happy and content to leave Sean O'Brien out. And that is completely on merit. The guys [like Leavy and Jordi Murphy] absolutely deserve it.
"I wouldn't move Leavy at all. I'd leave him exactly where he is. He's number one. The interesting one is that bench spot. If you had Sean O'Brien available and he could give you 20 or 30 minutes off the bench, that would be some impact."
Leavy was asked for his take during Leinster's press briefings out at UCD.
He was, somewhat understandably, wary of coming across respectful about such a stalwart like O'Brien. Here is how his exchange with SportsJOE went down:
SportsJOE: There has been talk of it being a case of Sean O'Brien or yourself [for openside] when he's back. Are you confident that you've done enough?
LEAVY: Yeah. What's the actual question here?
SportsJOE: Would you back yourself to hold onto that openside position?
LEAVY: Now, you're trying to get me to say something here! Listen, every time I play I play to the best of my ability and I'm sure Sean is the same. At the end of the day, Leo (Cullen) is going to pick the best back-rower to play. If there's a bit of variation there, or whatever, I'm just happy to get on the field and do my part.
Played that like a pro.
There is a scenario, of course, where O'Brien comes into the back row as blindside - a position he played at for the Lions last summer - and Leavy is allowed to resume his role as one of the most complete opensides currently operating in world rugby.
Leinster's problems are often problems worth having.