Josh van der Flier recalls first Leinster training session with Brian O'Driscoll 3 weeks ago

Josh van der Flier recalls first Leinster training session with Brian O'Driscoll

It thankfully got better after a shaky enough start.

Josh van der Flier has dropped the pre-season moustache but is still rocking an impressive mullet when he sits down to chat with SportsJOE about the upcoming rugby season.

Looking fresh in his Avonmore Protein Gold t-shirt, the Leinster and Ireland flanker shakes his head when he is mentioned, now at the age of 27, as one of Leinster's more senior players.

"I'd still rather be considered as one of the younger guys," he says, "but the press briefings are one of the things I've found myself doing more of.

"Even with someone like Will Connors, who is a few years younger than me, I'm a small bit more experienced than him or some of the academy lads. I'm able to share some of that experiences and thoughts with the lads.

"It's something I'm trying to grow more in my game - talking more in meetings and being more of a leader on the pitch."

Josh van der Flier goes on the charge against Northampton Saints in December 2019. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

It has been six years since van der Flier made his Leinster debut, at the age of 21, for Matt O'Connor. Joe Schmidt handed him an Ireland debut, 18 months later, and their paths did cross when the Kiwi was Leinster head coach.

"I was in my first year in the Leinster academy but I would have trained with the senior squad, maybe, five to 10 times when Joe was there. I would have mostly trained with the academy sessions and during international breaks they would have needed a few lads to train with the senior squad. Interactions with Joe would have been limited enough to the training squad."

The likes of Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris and Will Connors are the latest set of academy players to bust into the senior ranks and a couple of them have reputations for being lively characters in training.

Van der Flier admits he was a look-and-learn sort during those early sessions with he senior squad. One session stands out from those early days and still makes him cringe.

"You hear of those lads coming in, all guns blazing and throwing shoulders at people," he says, "I wasn't like that at all!

"I remember my first training session call-up. I was going into a lecture in UCD and Girvan Dempsey, who was working with the academy at the time, rang me and asked if I had my boots, and could I pop into training. All I had was boots; I had no training gear.

"I was brought into the meeting room at our old place, down by Donnybrook. I was terrified. Joe asked me what position I wanted to play, six or seven. I said, 'Seven, maybe'. Whatever you want!

"So I went out and did the session. For some reason, Brian O'Driscoll was training. He must have been injured or coming back from an injury during international break, because none of the other internationals were there.

"We were playing tip, to start off, and first play, he passes me the ball and I drop it. And I dropped another one after that. I was a bit flustered, to be honest.

"But I got used to the training eventually, about six or seven years later!"

Leinster and Irish international flanker Josh Van Der Flier teamed up with Avonmore Protein Gold in advance of the start of a new season of rugby this weekend. Avonmore Protein Gold, is the latest addition to the Avonmore Protein Milk product range. A premium protein milk drink with a tasty chocolate flavour, Avonmore Protein Gold contains 20g of quality Whey Protein contributing a total of 33g of protein per 500ml serving. Protein is a building block for muscles and hardworking muscles need protein for muscle maintenance and growth. Avonmore Protein Gold can be used by those who wish to include added protein in their diet.