'Leinster's new ace' Josh van der Flier the focus in France, this week
A guy that has very often been happy operating under the radar is now getting a lot of attention.
There was a lovely moment at last week's Rugby Players Ireland awards ceremony as the room rose to applaud Josh van der Flier, at the end of the night.
The Leinster and Ireland flanker won the Players' Player of the Year, and spoke of how much it meant to be voted such by his peers. There had been warm and rapturous applause of the night's nine other award winners. Van der Flier got the only standing ovation. It was not only in recognition of his stellar play, this season, but how he carries himself and how fondly he is regarded by all in Irish rugby.
Sean O'Brien played several seasons with the Wicklow native and, on House of Rugby, could not speak higher of the man. He says:
"Josh is very much a club-man. He comes to all the club events, and socials, and is a part of it, having fun at it. But he looks after himself. The ultimate professional.
"If you ever had something you needed help with, one morning, Josh is one of the first guys you'd ring him and, no sooner than you'd ask, he'd tell you, no problem. He'll do everything for the team, and everything he can for his teammates. That's what makes him so special. He invests every moment and every inch of his body into his rugby."
While most that have been following Irish rugby have had Josh van der Flier on their radar, for the past six or seven seasons, others across Europe, and the world, are starting to take notice.
'An indefatigable warrior'
The 29-year-old has been nominated for EPCR Player of the year, along with two Leinster teammates, and he has been the focus of much attention in France, this past fortnight.
Midi Olympique, Le Parisien, Rugbyrama, and more, have ran stories on the 29-year-old, Caelan Doris and Leinster's devastating line-speed and quick ruck ball. There was a big profile run, earlier this week, in French sporting bible L'Equipe, and it was glowing. It declared:
'Van Der Flier, Leinster's new ace and future opponent of La Rochelle in the European Cup final. He is an indefatigable warrior, that has added to his game to become a more complete back-row. He has shone for Leinster, this season.'
On Thursday, Late Rugby Club on Canal + focused, once again, on the impact van der Flier was having on Leinster's season and, with his visage looming on a big screen, had the province's average ruck speed of 2.84 seconds, in the tournament so far.
Ronan O'Gara will certainly have his La Rochelle side primed, but the pervading view in France is that Leinster will have too much for them. The Late Rugby Club pundits were asked to give their Champions Cup final predictions and the split was 5:1 in Leinster's favour.