Josh van der Flier: Ireland captain Rory Best just gets better and better
Evergreen Ireland captain Rory Best has been hailed for producing "the best rugby of his career" ahead of his 100th cap.
The 34-year-old hooker might be Ireland's elder statesman but continues to scale new heights, according to flanker Josh van der Flier.
Ulster stalwart Best should become just Ireland's fifth player to win 100 caps in Saturday's Test with Australia at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.
Best will join Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and John Hayes in the century club, amid a ringing endorsement of his enduring qualities.
Van der Flier said: "Rory's brilliant he just seems to be getting better and better with age, it doesn't seem to bother him at all.
"It looks like he's playing the best rugby of his career.
"He's a brilliant leader, a great captain; I love playing under him.
"You can see in the way we play how much he inspires us.
"He's an excellent speaker, he's very good at motivating us as players, and the most important thing is that he delivers on the pitch. That's what counts most, and he's a great leader."
Fast-improving Leinster flanker Van der Flier demonstrated his Test suitability with another potent display despite Ireland's 21-9 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday.
The 23-year-old back-rower slotted in after CJ Stander suffered a head injury, and stood out for his aggressive line-breaking abilities.
The four-cap loose forward will be in the frame to start against Australia on Saturday, and expects another canny build-up from captain Best.
Best has at times been seen to step back and allow fellow senior stars to produce telling team-talks, to mix up his captaincy approach around his own tub-thumping rhetoric.
Van der Flier admitted that flexibility is greatly appreciated among Joe Schmidt's Test squad.
"Sometimes as a captain other senior players will do all the talking and all Rory needs to say is 'that's it lads, let's go'," said Van der Flier.
"Sometimes it's that but also at other times we'll need a good talking-to.
"He's very good at reading the situation, he's a good leader in that way."