Leinster flanker Dan Leavy has shared his delight at finally getting to play a rugby match 573 days after it was feared his playing career could be over following a horror knee dislocation. 

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The Ireland back row was given a 27-minute run from the bench in Leinster’s 63-8 Friday night demolition of outclassed Zebre, bridging the 19-month gap in between appearances for his province after he was stretchered off during a March 2019 Champions Cup quarter-final. 

“It was great,” he said when the dust settled and he eventually caught his breath. “Weird atmosphere. Obviously no fans but it was great, loved every second. Knee felt perfect. It was great to get out there again. It was a bit frantic in the second half. It was almost turning into a game of sevens, but I loved every moment of it.

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“It [the lay-off] has flown by. It sounds strange but I have always had a target. As soon as I got injured I had to get the swelling down and make sure I was ready to get the operation. Then from there, it was getting as much strength and as much muscle back as I could before the next op. 

“Then from there I got the range back, got running, got moving, and then it was just to try and get back to where I was pre-injury and even better again. It has flown by. That is how I got through it, I just had little markers and we sat down and said in three months we want this, in (the next) three months we want this. 

“I’m lucky to have the people around me, the support network, the physios and the S&C staff I have at my disposal. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of tough days, but with that team, it was made possible… just thanks to everyone who supported me along the way. It’s been a really long and pretty bumpy ride from the get-go.

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“I haven’t checked my phone but I’m sure it has blown up with a lot of messages. It’s been great. It would have been nice to have my friends and family here. My dad was thinking of sneaking in; I’d to tell him not to do it because we’d get in a lot of trouble. But it has been great. The team has been so close-knit, we’re all such good mates so it is good to have my good pals beside me when it [the comeback] happened.”

The contribution of Leavy was understandably limited on the night – it will take a while for him to fully get back up to speed after so long out – but he still came within a whisker of scoring a Leinster try with the clock in the red. He hacked loose ball on twice, once with each foot, and after a panicked Zebre defender dropped the ball over the try line, the replacement pounced and momentarily thought he had got the decisive touch down – except he hadn’t. 

“He [the referee] should have given it to me anyway even if it wasn’t a try. Someone asked me had I done any speed work in my return to play. The answer is no clearly, slowest ever back three player for Leinster. I’m taking that with me.”

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