10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
If Denis Leamy had his way he would play morning, noon and night for Ireland, but the Munster back rower may be forced to sit out or be benched for Sunday's Guinness Autumn Test against the Pacific Islanders.
With coach Eddie O'Sullivan likely to experiment with his team line-up, Leamy could take a breather after two hugely physical displays against South Africa and Australia. Leinster's Jamie Heaslip, seen as the pretender to the Dualla man's number 8 crown, is waiting in the wings to show what he can offer at Test level.
This weekend seems the ideal time for Heaslip to get a run-out, whether from the start or off the bench, but Leamy, being the workhorse that he is and despite next Monday being his 25th birthday, admitted: "I'd definitely like to be in the team (for the weekend) but obviously Eddie has his own decisions to make and probably has some different ideas about what he wants to to.
"From an historical point of view, it's a very important game. But from the players' point of view it's just another game.
"We've got a difficult job to do against a very physical and exciting Pacific Islands team. They're going to be very exciting, wanting to spread the ball and score tries and if you don't give them the respect they deserve, they're going to punish you.
"We have to do our homework so we can give a good performance and close out the autumn series and the run of internationals at the old Lansdowne Road with a win."
Reflecting on last weekend's 21-6 victory over Australia, which marked his 16th cap, Leamy said: "I thought it was a very, very physical game. I woke up very sore on Monday - had a lot of bumps and bruises.
"The conditions led to that. The wind and the rain meant that there were a lot of hard yards to be made. Fellas were really putting their bodies on the ground and a lot of big tackles had to be made because a lot of the game was played on the inside really, in the trenches."
Recently announced as the 2006 Texaco Sportstars rugby award winner, Leamy felt that Australian coach John Connolly's argument that Ireland won because of their familiarity with the wintry Dublin conditions was just clutching at straws.
"They're really can't blame the conditions. Ourselves, we definitely would have preferred a dry ball but you just have to play whatever conditions are put in front of you. Growing up playing in that sort of weather definitely helps and Australia are probably used to the hard ground and a dry ball.
"But you have to adapt and you can't make excuses like that."
One man who thrived in the bad weather was Leamy's back row colleague Neil Best who enhanced his reputation no end with a fiesty and finely-balanced performance, laced with brutish tackles and high octane attacking charges.
"Neil was terrific. The conditions probably suited him right down to the ground because he could go around and essentially pummel everything in front of him," said a laughing Leamy.
"He made some massive hits. In fairness, he probably played a little bit tighter than myself and Wally (David Wallace) and that allowed us a bit more freedom to go and get some ball in hand. Neil's definitely a great guy to have in our side."
Leamy was forced to spend ten minutes of last Sunday's encounter on the sidelines as South African referee Marius Jonker saw fit to sin-bin the Tipperary native and Australian duo Mat Rogers and Phil Waugh for scuffling during the second half.
"I actually thought he (Jonker) was just going to have a chat with us because up to that point, he hadn't really taken anyone aside to give out to them," insisted the Heineken Cup winner.
"But I suppose he wanted to stamp out any trouble straight away and if he felt putting three players in the bin was the way to do that, fair enough."
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