"I'm still pretty attached" - Luke Fitzgerald still coming to grips with life after Leinster

The former Ireland international chats about life after rugby, Leinster's Champions Cup campaign and the arrival of Stuart Lancaster

Luke Fitzgerald

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Old habits die hard.

That's why Luke Fitzgerald couldn't help referring to Leinster as 'we' when commentating on their Champions Cup clash against Montpellier, something he admits will take a while to work out of his vocabulary.

"That's tough for me to shift because I'm doing interviews for 10 years and it's been 'we' and 'us'," he explains. "There's still a healthy bit of bias there, and I do still feel attached to the team."

The 28-year-old was forced to hang up his boots in June due to a neck injury, one of many which have plagued his career. At Leinster, Fitzgerald played 154 times for the province, scoring 32 tries. He won three Heineken Cups, three Pro12s and a Challenge Cup with Leinster, which is more than can be said for most.

Speaking on Tuesday at the launch of Sky Sports' autumn rugby coverage, Fitzgerald noted that having to call time on his career at that earlier stage made it that bit more difficult to adjust to life outside the game.

"I’d love to still be playing, but my body’s broken down. Usually it’s your legs that run out of steam as a back, and then that’s it, you just can’t play anymore, you can’t compete. But that isn’t the case for me. It makes it tough, but at the same time I’ve had a great career, so it’s hard to look back and feel like it’s something I’ve missed out on.

"There’s loads of things I’d love to have done better but I think every career has that. There’s a bit of unfulfilled feeling there. Every career has that, and now it’s just about moving on to the next thing.

"I’ve been pretty good at that. I haven’t really had a pang yet to go back, I’ve kind of enjoyed watching from a distance." 

Luke Fitzgerald (right) won three Heineken Cups with Leinster, the first of which came back in 2011. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Having watched Leinster claim a vital losing bonus point in France last weekend, along with their opening victory over Castres at the RDS, Fitzgerald believes they've gotten the season off on the front foot this time out.

"I’d be pretty positive how things have started. It’s a great start, that losing bonus point was really important. Being top of the group after two games is a really good result for them."

After finishing bottom of their pool and with five losses from six games, they will be keen to put last year's poor European campaign behind them, but Fitzgerald believes Head Coach Leo Cullen will be using that as a source of motivation too.

"I’d say they want to do themselves justice. I think last year was a bit of an anomaly in that we had 20 guys at the World Cup. One week before the first Champions Cup game, we had a completely new out-half coming in who played the game completely different to Jimmy Gopperth.

"We were trying to bed all these guys in really quickly, which was incredibly hard because I think it’s a very competitive tournament.

"We never got out of first gear, and then we were left chasing our tails. We made a load of mistakes against Wasps in the first game at home. We were camped in their 22, couldn’t score, and then they got some break out tries. Once we lost that one at home, we were pretty much goosed."

He also pointed out the new arrivals on the management side of things have come as a welcome boost.

"I think the team’s in a much better place, especially with Stuart Lancaster being brought on board. That situation will work out well for everyone; he’s got huge experience in dealing with a high-pressure environment.

"The England job is probably the biggest job in rugby - it's either that or New Zealand - so he’s a pressure coach. He’s high level and the lads are really impressed with him. They’re in a good place, and I think they’re in a good place with that management team that's there."