Meet the four men charged with making Irish fans dream again 7 years ago

Meet the four men charged with making Irish fans dream again

Joe Schmidt said the young guys would get their chance and he was true to his word..

The head coach freshened up his matchday squad with starting roles against England for Stuart McCloskey and Josh van der Flier. Ultan Dillane, meanwhile, is named on the bench.


Ireland are seeking to win the championship for a third time on the spin but will need to beat England to keep alive the extremely slim hope of that. A draw and loss in the opening two games have Schmidt's side playing .

Along with Connacht prop Finlay Bealham, the three exciting youngsters were included when Schmidt named his initial squad in January.

While Schmidt must have been pining for the day he could select Munster flanker CJ Stander, the call-ups for Stuart McCloskey, Josh van der Flier and Ultan Dillane were purely on form.

Stander has already been blooded and is backing up all those positive comments about his abilities to take the fight to opponents.


CJ Stander

Never has waiting for a player to become naturalised seemed to take longer.

The South African-born forward arrived in Ireland with three set purposes - to excel at Munster, become an Ireland international and show the Springboks what they missed.

Two out of three have been achieved and many Bok fans, and pundits, are starting to lament that he is a fu


So athletic and powerful, Stander has taken on a leadership role at Munster in the past 18 months and not missed a step.

Very similar to Billy Vunipola at Saracens - Stander creates uproar in attack and is fierce in defence. Regularly tops the statistic charts for turnovers, carries and hits. Averages a try every three games for Munster too.

Was named man-of-the-match for his debut against Wales and was one of few that emerged with credit from the 10-9 loss to France.


Stuart McCloskey

Ulster were at pains to let Chris Farrell go, in 2014, to Grenoble. The province lost a big guy with deft movement who had all the rugby intelligence to be a defensive leader in midfield and an attacking catalyst.

In Farrell's absence, and with Luke Marshall struggling with injuries, McCloskey stepped up. In the past 18 months, he has been a revelation, and he can slot over penalties and conversions.

In his 35 provincial appearances to date, McCloskey averages 10 carries per game at added gains of 60 metres. He is pure momentum and has been a class apart for Ulster.

McCloskey Toulouse


His partnership with the fit again Marshall could arguably see them slot into the Irish midfield but one suspects Robbie Henshaw will step right back in as No.12.

Josh van der Flier

We have mentioned this before but it bears repeating - van der Flier made his Leinster debut 15 months ago.

A little over a year, and less than 20 provincial caps, have passed since the 22-year-old flanker was given his first Leinster start against Zebre. He finished 2014/15 on the fringes having filled in during the Six Nations.

While most looked at Jack Conan to be the latest Leinster back-row to make a long-term impression for Ireland, van der Flier met every challenge he faced. He has been excellent for Leinster this season and was their one high point in a disappointing Champions Cup campaign.

December's hard-fought victory over Connacht summed up the young Dubliner and what he brings to teams he plays in. Carries, metres gained, front-foot ball and good breakdown play were almost eclipsed by his crucial try [go to 0:35].

That was until you looked at the defensive stats - a couple of turnovers and 18 tackles landed. Not one attempt was missed.

Ultan Dillane

Caused a major stir, a couple of weeks back, when he was called into Ireland's extended training squad for the championship.

The Kerry native, by all accounts, acquitted himself very well and is not just in the squad to hold tackle shields.

Schmidt has lost a force of nature in Iain Henderson [to injury] and a young, marauding second-row in the starting XV may be just the ticket to complement lineout leader Devin Toner.

Pat Lam has been raving about the 6' 6" lock, who was born in Paris, from as soon as he took up his job [in 2013] at Connacht. Dillane will hope to show the rest of the rugby world just how hard he hits, starting from this Saturday.

*Updated from piece first published on January 20