Leavy stakes his claim

by Karl Graham
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RUNNING onto the Aviva pitch as Ireland held a narrow advantage over old foes England during their attempt to deny them a Six Nations grand slam and new world record, was probably something Dan Leavy was not expecting during the build-up to last week.
However, when Jamie Heaslip picked up a knock during the warm-up and Leavy was suddenly sprung from 24th man wilderness and onto the bench – that is exactly what happened.
The 22-year-old Dubliner entered the fray to replace Sean O’Brien in the back row and help his team to a four point lead over a shell-shocked England side.
Despite being a late addition even for the bench, Leavy performed admirably in a high pressure situation in just his second cap, and his head coach at Leinster, Leo Cullen, is keen to see more of the same for the province when Wasps come calling this weekend
“It was a great experience for him to come in and make his Six Nations debut,” Cullen told GazetteSport.
“Dan came in very late in the day but he has worked really hard during this block and he put in a big performance in our last game so it was good to see him get rewarded.
“Unfortunately, it was Jamie who missed out on the day but it was good for Dan to get a taste of what it is like to play at the Aviva in such a big game.
“Coming in during those last 15 minutes of the game when there is so much at stake will give him a lot of confidence from the experience. Those guys are working incredibly hard so they are desperate for it.”
Leavy’s attention now turns to cementing a place in a competitive Leinster squad, especially in Heaslip’s ongoing absence.
And he crossed the try-line just four minutes in against Cardiff last weekend in the Pro 12, a key score in a 22-21 victory.
However, the real prize will be earning a place in the starting 15 for the Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps on Saturday, and with a number of other young players also impressing alongside Leavy this season, Cullen is delighted with the squad depth he now has at his disposal.
“It is something we have worked hard on over the last couple of years.
“We missed a lot of guys from the World Cup last year so we really scouted around the clubs, and obviously looked within the academy as well.
“The amount of time we have invested in some of the young guys and trying to get the best kids into the building first and foremost, you start to see the rewards of all that work now,” said Cullen.

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