The man was relentless.
There were suggestions, leading into Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Wales, that CJ Stander’s place in the back row could be under threat.
Stander’s form had certainly done nothing to suggest that he was in line to be dropped but certain quarters had mused on whether Jack Conan could add more dynamism and slick passing to this Ireland team. Such talk proved unfounded and Stander delivered another impressive performance at No.8.
The Munster man made a couple of big carries in the first half – barrelling into Josh Navidi and knocking both Ken Owens and Scott Williams backwards. All told, Stander made 21 carries and gained 43 metres for his team.
I firmly believe that @CJStander is the second coming of Jesus Christ
— Conor O'Rourke (@conororourke7) February 24, 2018
Ireland turned to Stander, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy to get them on the front foot and all three did not disappoint. They made early impacts, gained confidence from busting in-roads and both Leavy and Healy scored tries.
Stander made seven of his eight tackle attempts and both carried and cleared out effectively in the lead-up to Bundee Aki and Healy’s tries.
When Rory Best was called ashore, Stander took over the captaincy duties. It was him that took Conor Murray at his word and allowed him to go for the posts with that crucial, late penalty to make it 30-20.
Another aspect of Stander’s contribution to the teams he plays in has to be his role as on-field motivator. All through the game, Stander was heard chirping away over referee Glen Jackson’s team. He rarely stopped, from minute 1 to 81.
At scrum-time, Stander was geeing his pack up each and every time.
“Let’s go boys!!”
“Let’s f**king snap tight!”
“That’s it Jack. That’s it Jackie boy!!”
Ireland won a crucial penalty after mauling the Welsh to bits and Stander was right up on Peter O’Mahony and in his face – “YESSS!! Yes Pete!”
He was still out there at the death and could be heard whopping away as Jacob Stockdale intercepted Gareth Anscombe’s desperate, slung pass to seal Ireland’s win at 37-27. Jackson’s mic caught Stander absolutely loving the moment.
“CaaaaaAAAATCH…. yes! YES!!!”
At that point, as Jackson sets off in pursuit of the play, the TV camera cut off and Stander’s cries drifted away.
As the likes of Conor Murray, Quinn Roux and Joey Carbery converged on Stockdale, Stander could be found around the Welsh 10-metre line. His shoulders slumped in that knowing sensation of a job finally complete.
The talking, charging, carrying, ruck-hitting, tackling and covering could finally stop.