Tuesday 28 March 2017

Van der Flier determined to be both a creator and a destroyer

Josh Van Der Flier Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Josh Van Der Flier Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Creation and destruction are polar opposites. Then again, you could argue that those who destroy are also capable of creating, too.

Josh van der Flier has been hailed as a destructive seven, far removed from those flamboyant opensides of old who, like the dashing, flaxen-haired French artist Jean-Pierre Rives, were as skilful any three-quarter.

Joe Schmidt has repeatedly hailed the Wicklow youngster's "engine" and, in almost two hours' worth of action from the bench against the best team in world rugby, he has demonstrated his startling ability in the tackle and defence.

This week, he is likely to take a starting berth against a touring Wallaby side who, when they last visited, would not have been aware of the fresh-faced kid then only debuting for Leinster.

But there is a deeper texture to his game; we caught more than a glimpse last Saturday as he stepped into the unfamiliar blindside breach and unleashed a ball-carrying display of quiet fury.

And, to his own possible surprise, and the momentary chagrin of his coach, an offloading capability that brought to mind a Rives, rather than a Dusautoir.

"I mentioned it after the game," he says, a tad sheepishly.

Suddenly, the 13 tackles in Chicago, beating three defenders for 53 metres and a clean line-break in Dublin were temporarily wiped from the memory stick.

"He said I did it right but maybe not the offload. It was a bit of a silly moment," Van der Flier said.

And yet, had he succeeded out the back, Andrew Trimble would, given his finishing prowess and strength, have crossed for a try; the outcome rendered the decision incorrect but the intent was obviously keen.

"I wouldn't have thrown it if it wasn't on," he pleads to a more forgiving audience.

"I saw Trimble in the corner and he would have scored if he had got the ball. That's what was going through my head then.

"But I was probably too close to the ground when I tried to throw it and it didn't come off.

"If it had come off I'd have been the hero. Try and throw it earlier next time or not at all, I suppose!"

That attacking game, shackles off, is something he is willing to explore further as the graph in his career trajectory continues to accelerate upwards - there has been talk of a Lions tour with an impressed Warren Gatland apparently keen - and he is keen to add more strings to an already impressive bow.

"You want to be that link man between backs and forwards because that's traditionally what a seven does as well as the breakdown work."

Despite his impressive rise, self-doubt has mocked him.

"You don't really know if you'll be good enough at that level. It gives you a lot of confidence that you don't look too out of place.

"It gives you confidence in that regard. Definitely a good few work-ons looking at the game as well.

"I try not to speak about them but obviously in the back of your head, you're thinking things.

"'Will I be physical enough? Will I be big enough? Will I be fast enough?'

"Those kind of things you just don't know."

Everyone who watches him, however, does.

Irish Independent

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