Ahead of tomorrow’s BKT URC Semi-Final against Munster, Max Deegan sat down for The Big Interview that features in the Official Matchday Programme. You can buy the programme on Saturday for €6 in and around Aviva Stadium.

Max Deegan is in line to become Leinster Rugby’s next Centurion. But even he’s surprised how close he is to the feat!

“I know in or around how many I have, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how many I have though”, he said earlier this week, when asked how many times he had played since making his debut as a 20-year-old in 2016.

Deegan will line out for Leinster for the 98th time on Saturday evening. Only he and Ed Byrne (96) are currently within touching distance of reaching that milestone, with Jordan Larmour next in line on 89 appearances.

“Oh. Wow!

“I didn’t realise I was that close to it. I knew I was in the nineties.”

With so many appearances amassed for Leinster along with two caps in green for Ireland, Deegan is growing into a leadership role within the squad.

“I feel this year especially, I’ve taken on a far bigger role!

“You have a lot of lads that have so much more experience than me – international experience that I wouldn’t have. But in terms of when those players are gone, I feel I have stepped up, done well and helped lead the team with the likes of Rhys Ruddock and players like that.”

Part of the squad that traveled to South Africa, Deegan played against Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls in games that saw Academy player Sam Prendergast and Sub-Academy duo Liam Molony and Conor O’Tighearnaigh make their debuts, while many more players who had only played a handful of times for the province got valuable game time.

“A lot of the lads who come in wouldn’t be used to playing, training and preparing for big games. Even helping with the basics like that is useful”, he said of his role in the Highveld.

“The lads are excellent at preparing really well. They see us prepare for games. It’s all about helping them along the way if they have any questions like ‘What would you do in this situation?’ or ‘What should we do here? Should we do a walkthrough?’ if you’re talking about lineouts.

“Because they are new lads, it’s all about making players feel comfortable. It’s about having a bit of craic with them on the bus on the way back from training. It’s about making players feel comfortable, and they’ll never be afraid to speak in a game, or even outside of it.”

Over 60 players have featured in Leinster’s BKT United Rugby Championship run this season, with Deegan starting in 12 of those matches. The efforts of all the players he says are focused on a solitary end point.

“We all have one goal in mind. That’s to do the double. It’s completely a squad effort. Whatever team you are playing in, from one week to the next, you need to turn up and perform.

“We want all these games at the end of the season to be at home. It’s a big effort to get to that point. It’s not like ‘we’ll play well in the games at the end of the season.’ We want to play well in every game. These home matches make things a little more comfortable at this time of year.

“There is so much competition in the squad. You have to turn up and perform, or else you won’t be picked for the bigger games. You get these chances – the jersey is yours for the week.  You have to turn up and play well, or the jersey won’t be yours next week, or the week after.”

You can read the full interview with Max Deegan in Saturday’s Official Matchday Programme.