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    Leamy to Prove Worth Against Aus

    Leamy no longer at sixes and sevens but an Ireland No8 to rank with the best in Europe</font>
    Brendan Fanning in Dublin

    </font>Saturday November 18, 2006
    </font><a href="http://sport.guardian.co.uk/rugbyuni&#111;n/story/0,,1951063,00.html" target="_blank">

    Guardian</font></a>This
    week Denis Leamy was announced as the rugby winner in Ireland's
    national sports star awards for 2006. With Brian O'Driscoll and Paul
    O'Connell still alive and kicking, it is not easy to claim any prize in
    Irish rugby. It reflects well on those who chose Leamy as well as the
    man himself.</font>

    Perhaps
    it is a growing recognition that the 24-year-old Leamy is the best
    back-row forward in Europe. When it comes to previewing the Six Nations
    in the New Year, that position will have wider support. The
    Munsterman's contribution to Ireland's cause against Australia tomorrow
    afternoon will only add to his fan base.</font>

    If
    his talents do not quite make him unique, it is likely that the
    following sequence does: for his second, third and fourth caps he
    started in different positions across the back row. It would be
    stretching things to say he was a raging success in each. Indeed the
    first was a disaster, mitigated by the fact that he was in good
    company. On that day in Rome last year he was noticeable for being
    second to Italy's open-side flanker Mauro Bergamasco in the races that
    mattered. He was dropped. Then he pulled a hamstring and did not
    recover until the summer.</font>

    "It
    was all downhill after the Italian game," he says. "It was a nightmare
    trying to get back and basically the rest of the season was spent
    sitting on the bench." The slide was arrested in comfortable
    circumstances. The big boys were away in New Zealand with the Lions and
    the support crew got to visit Japan. Leamy started the second Test at
    No6. No problems.</font>

    Next
    came the autumn schedule, with New Zealand and Australia back to back.
    He was relieved to get in for what he calls, "the start of the
    rebuilding phase". He was at No8, however. There was a queue of people
    who thought Leamy was not a No8 and that he was no foundation on which
    to build a pack. Ireland were savaged by the All Blacks that day.
    Afterwards, as he flopped in the Irish dressing room, he declared that
    he had never come across such power and strength in so many opponents
    at once.</font>

    "I
    remember a few times making a tackle or going into contact and just the
    strength of them was unbelievable," he says. "Richie McCaw that day
    seemed to be on a different planet. I've played against him since and
    coped a lot better with him but that day we got destroyed really.
    Basically they bashed us off the park with their power and speed. And
    they've got the skills to boot which makes it incredibly hard to play
    against them. It was a pretty empty feeling, like there was no way out.
    You knew what you were facing the next day with the criticism, people
    looking at you in disgust really. It's a terrible feeling."</font>

    Losing
    from a winning position against Australia the next week only made it
    worse. Yet from that wobbly start Ireland and Leamy took a triple crown
    from the Six Nations and enhanced reputations from the rematches with
    New Zealand and Australia in the summer. So why did they not conclude
    that series by beating the Wallabies?</font>

    "Because
    we d
    Hope Not Hate

    #2


    Credit to EOS for putting him at 8 and sticking with him there.[img]smileys/thumb-up.gif[/img]

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