Leinster’s Josh van der Flier hails coach Denis Leamy’s input: ‘There’s no one better to learn from’


When Hugh Hogan left Leinster to join the Scarlets last summer, the move largely went under the radar.

As an unheralded member of the Leinster backroom team, Hogan was well liked by Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster and the players, all of whom spoke highly of the work the St Mary’s man did in his role as contact skills coach.

Leinster had an important position to fill and they quickly reached out to Denis Leamy, who had served as the province’s elite player development officer since October 2019.

Since leaving injury, Leamy has worked his way up the coaching ladder, first with Rockwell before working with Cashel, Garryowen, the Ireland Under-20s and the Tipperary Hurlers when they won the All-Ireland in 2016.

Leamy’s reputation as a player precedes him, and he’s making a similarly respected name for himself in the coaching world.

As Munster begins the search for a new defensive coach, it will be fascinating to see if Graham Rowntree picks up Leamy on the phone, especially considering the Scarlets recruited Hogan as defensive coach while he was in Leamy’s current role at Leinster.

Rowntree has previously said he’s open to having homegrown coaches on his staff and Leamy would certainly tick that box.

Just as Ireland value fast balls, Leinster also demands a clean and quick platform to play from, which is where the former Munster and Ireland back line comes into play.

“Denis Leamy works a fair bit with us on that work on the breakdown, our clean outs and a good ball carry,” said Ireland international Josh van der Flier.

“If we get it right, it makes a big difference.

“He’s pretty much doing the work on the contact skills, a lot with the jerky threats from the opposition – he goes through that every week. He works through what our offensive ruck was, our defensive ruck, our ball carry, many of the physical elements of the game.

“Then poaching too, lots of things Hugh would have done, similar work. He works on defense, gets these two-man tackles or works on chop tackles, things like that.

“He does a lot of that technical work before and after training and he certainly drives that forward in meetings.

“He was brilliant. Of course as a player you would have seen what he can do and he brought some of that expertise and is a great person to learn from.

“There’s no one better to learn from than someone who’s been there and done it at the highest level.

“He did a great job and was a huge asset to us in terms of the contact side of the game, tackles, rucks and so on. He was brilliant.”

Van der Flier’s contact work has improved enormously in recent years. While it’s not all Leamy’s fault, the Ireland flanker believes he’s had a huge impact.

“It’s great. He’s a great sounding board for ongoing ideas (past)”, explains Van der Flier.

“We would have had some good conversations about different techniques and things we could work on or that he thought would be good.

“I think with all the back rows he was brilliant. Everyone in the squad that has tried to work on the tackle technique, work on their ruck has been brilliant and helped me a lot in that area too.”

Leinster will be looking to secure their place in Europe’s bottom eight by beating Connacht tomorrow and Van der Flier will be central to that.

The 28-year-old insists a good start at the Aviva Stadium is crucial.

“When you play everyone at home, you want to get a good start, disbelieve them and not give them a foothold in the game,” adds Van der Flier.

“That will definitely be a focus for us. We talked a little bit about their mindset earlier in the week and how they might approach the game.

“Individually and as a team we try to put that focus into our performance and it takes away that mental side of what they think, whether they think they’re underdogs or whether or not they should win.

“I would consider that pretty irrelevant once we start playing the game.

“It’s important to be aware of the opportunity it is for Connacht, what it means for them and their supporters.

“It’s important to keep that in mind, but when it comes to matchday this week it’s all about playing as well as we can against Connacht. And hopefully that will be enough to see us through.” Leinster’s Josh van der Flier hails coach Denis Leamy’s input: ‘There’s no one better to learn from’

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