Battered and bruised, Josh van der Flier stakes claim for Ireland back row 3 years ago

Battered and bruised, Josh van der Flier stakes claim for Ireland back row

When you stick your head and body in where it hurts, you'll occasion have a lump or two taken out.

Josh van der Flier took some punishment during Leinster's Guinness PRO14 clash against Munster, on Saturday, but he'll tell you it was all worth it. Munster may have got some licks in but van der Flier and his team left with the spoils.

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Earlier in the week, the Leinster flanker had commented, "We don't like them very much and they don't really like us so it makes for a good game. It'll be very physical."

You don't go around making statements like that without having to make it up on the pitch. Van der Flier did just that, even if he did keep the Leinster physios busy during his 73-minute stint.

On three different occasions, the 24-year-old received treatment. He incurred a gash to the cheek, had his shoulder looked at and seemed to be limping soon after he had a late try ruled out. Leinster were leading by 11 points at that stage so he was hauled ashore for Jordi Murphy.

When it came to the back rowers in action, only Tommy O'Donnell made a line break or carry that did any real damage. The Munster flanker's second half break and clever inside line before passing to Keith Earls set up a fine try that made it a closer contest than Leinster's dominance had previously suggested it would be.

After his team's 23-17 victory, Leinster lock Scott Fardy was asked if his side should have finished much farther ahead on the scoreboard. "That's for you guys to decide," he responded with a smile, "not me."

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O'Donnell's eight carries gained Munster 60 metres [and a try] while the rest of the starting back rows could only muster 35 metres off 35 carries. It was tough going and every yard was hard-earned.

It was a stop-start game with the ball spending a lot of time hurtling around the air above the Aviva Stadium pitch. Leinster kicked 39 times and the likes of Andrew Conway and JJ Hanrahan must have felt, at times, the number was double. Garryowens and cross-field kicks were a major part of Leinster's arsenal and the chaos they created helped tee up Rory O'Loughlin for his second try.

Munster's kicking was a touch more aimless and disjointed, like much of their play. They wanted to play expansively yet seemed to forget that the right to go wide often has to be earned up front.

If they were keen to avoid breakdown scraps that would slow them down, it was in massive part to the sheer nuisance factor from van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock and Robbie Henshaw. Van der Flier twice won turnovers for his side while he made life tough for Munster scrum-half Conor Murray on several other occasions. His sheer strength and technical poise, in jackal mode, makes him hard to shift.

Post-match, Fardy told us:

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"Josh is a class player. We've some bloody brilliant back rowers at this club and playing alongside all of them is pretty special. They're all very good on the breakdown and on the carry.

"Josh has been excellent all year. He is someone who is a quiet achiever. He does a fantastic job."

Quietly achieving but starting to get the recognition and praise his hard work and performances merit.

Joe Schmidt is a fan of the player, no doubt, and he will be included in the squad for next month's Test matches. Getting a start ahead of the likes of Sean O'Brien, O'Donnell or Murphy will not be easy but don't be surprised if van der Flier quietly achieves that too.