The Wallabies’ loss has been Leinster’s immense gain as Fardy shines

THE OPPORTUNITY TO play in the Heineken Cup was one of the main rugby reasons Scott Fardy joined Leinster in 2017.

The Australian got exactly what he was hoping for in starting seven of the province’s European games on their run to title glory last season, including all three of their knock-out games.

Fardy was a key figure as Leinster did the double last season. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

This campaign, however, Fardy had to wait until last Saturday for his first start of the season in the top-tier European competition, having made two appearances off the bench in rounds one and two.

With the non-European rule limiting Leinster to selecting two of Fardy, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park, Fardy missed out completely on the back-to-back clashes with Bath in December.

However, with Lowe suspended last weekend and Devin Toner injured, Fardy made his return and underlined once again just how good a signing he has been for Leinster.

Fardy has been superb in the Pro14 this season, often leading the way when Leinster’s front-line Ireland internationals are missing and it has struck us on more than one occasion that he is exactly the kind of player the Wallabies are missing.

Gritty, hard-working, fit, consistent, skillful, intelligent, experienced, influential and tough – Michael Cheika could certainly use a player of Fardy’s quality in this World Cup year.

Having won 39 caps for the Wallabies from 2013 to 2016, Fardy ruled himself out of the selection picture with his move to Europe and Australian rugby’s loss has been Leinster’s happy gain, whether he’s been deployed in the second row or at blindside flanker.

The Australian with his son, August, and James Ryan at the RDS. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

With Lowe back from suspension for this weekend’s visit to Wasps and Luke McGrath having suffered a knee injury – meaning Gibson-Park will be required – Fardy could be the one to miss out on selection again.

It would be a shame for the competition to be deprived of a player of his quality but either way, Leinster know they can depend on Fardy for a big performance if and when they need him.

His latest showing against Toulouse underlined many of his qualities, starting with the basics required of any second row.

Fardy won four lineouts for Leinster with a minimum of fuss, helping lineout caller James Ryan – who is still learning the craft – to ensure a 90% return on their own team’s throw.

Fardy also put some pressure on the Toulouse throw, very nearly earning a 23rd-minute steal in the air. 

His ball-carrying was strong throughout, with some important surges across his 19 carries, most notably in the build-up to Dave Kearney’s try from Ross Byrne’s diagonal kick.

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With the game still poised at 10-6 in Leinster’s favour, Leo Cullen’s team have been battering at the Toulouse defence for 10 phases with little return until Fardy injects momentum into the attack with this carry.

Recognising that Antoine Dupont has drifted a little too wide of Julien Marchand, Fardy accelerates into the sliver of space. 

Sean Cronin gets knocked back by Richie Arnold on the following phase, but Fardy is back on his feet and already working around the corner to offer himself up again.

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Fardy takes advantage of Dupont’s positioning again, carrying directly at the scrum-half as Clément Castets slips off the tackle on his inside shoulder.

With momentum back in Leinster’s favour again, Jack Conan makes one more carry and then Byrne cleverly takes advantage of the space behind Toulouse’s frontline defence to tee up Kearney for a superb finish.

Every lock needs to tackle and Fardy did well in defence too, completing 14 tackles and showing up prominently several times.

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Toulouse had some good opportunities to hurt Leinster with ball in hand early in the game, but Leinster’s defence was resilient in keeping them out. 

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Fardy combines with second row partner Ryan in the example above, with Ryan chopping in low on François Cros as Fardy goes high to target the ball, stripping it clear for an important turnover.

Having played so much of his rugby at blindside flanker, Fardy is a well-established turnover threat too and showed his quality in this area several times against Toulouse.

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Fardy hunts across from the inside in this instance, swooping in on the ball after Byrne tackles Sofiane Guitoune and Kearney misses with his strip attempt.