The circumstances were far from ideal but Dan Leavy’s contribution to Ireland’s 28-17 win over Argentina was all the more impressive given his preparation for the game.
The flanker replaced the injured Sean O’Brien just before half-time and produced a powerful performance that featured a turnover, seven tackles and eight carries for 30 metres.
Not bad for a player who began the week in a different hemisphere.
Leavy, 24, was a delayed arrival into the Ireland camp after playing a full 80 minutes for Leinster against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth the previous Sunday.
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He was among the players released to their provinces as coach Joe Schmidt took a smaller group to Chicago for their opening autumn international against Italy.
Despite a round trip of over 18,000 miles, Leavy was always in contention to feature against the Pumas.
“Joe rang me up and just said: ‘you haven’t played’, which was really fair enough. I needed to get 80 minutes under my belt,” explained Leavy.
“So he just told me to go down to South Africa and give us a good 80 minutes and you might get a shot against Argentina.
“He said he was going to play the other boys for the Chicago game and I thought they all played really well.”
Leavy was a revelation in Ireland’s Grand Slam campaign – playing in all five games – but the return to fitness of O’Brien and Josh van der Flier appeared to have sent him sliding down the pecking order, making his performance against the Pumas all the more timely.
“His competitiveness, how combative he is, how keen he is to get involved – I thought he did a really good job,” said Schmidt after the Argentina victory.
“He carried down the left wing a couple of times, he carried through the middle a few times, defensively he was strong and got some good pressure on the ball and that’s what you want from a seven.
“I do think there are some other sevens who are going very well as well – obviously Josh did in Chicago – and that’s a tough decision during the week, which is exactly what you want.”
Jordi Murphy, Rhys Ruddock and van der Flier will also be vying for the number seven jersey against New Zealand on Saturday but Leavy is hoping for his first shot at the All Blacks.
“It’s the top-ranked team versus the second-ranked team so I’d love to play,” he added.
“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.
“We had a completely difference back row against Argentina than we did against Italy so there’s a lot of names in the hat. Hopefully I get to play but we’ll wait and see.”
Having made his Test debut against Canada one week after Ireland’s historic first win over New Zealand in November 2016, Leavy merely watched the rematch later that same month when the All Blacks took revenge in a bruising encounter in Dublin.
“It was vicious but we won in Chicago and they were looking for revenge and we were looking to make it two in a row,” he said.
“These games are always going to be seriously high intensity, like it was against Argentina.
“They’re the type of games you want to play so I’ve no doubt it’s going to be a similar intensity.”
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