Wednesday 18 October 2017

'We don't like them and they don't like us' - Josh van der Flier stokes Leinster-Munster derby flames

‘They’re all such lovely lads,’ says Josh van der Flier of his Munster rivals. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
‘They’re all such lovely lads,’ says Josh van der Flier of his Munster rivals. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

For Josh van der Flier, Saturday's Aviva Stadium clash with Munster represents an unchecked box on his career to-do list.

He has faced the men in red twice, but the sum total of his involvement amounts to about 30 minutes off the bench and although he has yet to lose he wants a proper go.

He may not have gotten a real experience of the rivalry yet, but the Wicklow native is well aware of what it means to the players on both sides and he's in no mood to play down the animosity.

"It's the game everyone wants to play in," he said.

"There are obviously semi-finals and finals and stuff but other than those this is probably the biggest game of the year.

"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.

"I've only played Munster twice and only five minutes in both of them. Hopefully I'll get a good go at them this year."

Swords

The Ireland flanker is looking forward to crossing swords with some familiar foes with Munster likely to field an all-international back-row of Peter O'Mahony, Tommy O'Donnell and CJ Stander in the Guinness PRO14 clash.

Read more: Scannell aiming to edge battle of the Irish hookers

He has rubbed shoulders with them all during his time in national camp and knows their various strengths and weaknesses.

Every opponent knows that halting Stander's march is a key factor in stealing Munster's momentum and the 24-year-old is up for the challenge.

"It's the same as any good player, you have to get at them early and don't give them time to get into the game," he said.

"I suppose for CJ there's no point in tackling him high, he bounces people off. For me, anyway, I'll just try to tackle him low and try to get into him early and that's all you can do, he's a very good player and you try not to give him space, that's as good as you can do really.

"It's funny they're all such lovely lads but you know that we don't like them, you know what I mean.

"It will be very competitive, they're all really good players and obviously you'd know a few of them from camp but yeah, it's just very exciting to hopefully get to play against them because I haven't had a proper go at them."

Read more: Ulster must step up and play for the shirt, insists McCall

Although he never attended a Leinster v Munster derby in his youth, the former Wesley College student was an avid follower of the games from afar.

With more than 40,000 fans expected at Lansdowne Road, Saturday's game marks the moment the season really kicks into gear.

Europe is looming large and after a disjointed start there is an onus on both teams to find form quickly.

Last Friday, Van der Flier watched on as the returning Lions found the going tough against Edinburgh but he believes it will all come together.

"Last week our accuracy was down a little bit and I suppose with the lads coming back in to play, it does disrupt things a little bit, it's hard to be really fluid in the lads' first game back," he said.

"You could see in pre-season as well, when everyone is having their first game back it's always scrappy so I think the lads will be good for the bit of game-time at the weekend and hopefully we'll be sharp coming into the weekend.

"But training this week has been very sharp so it's looking good."

Both teams face French opposition in Europe a week after crossing swords in Dublin 4 and the victor will take momentum into their European campaign.

"Obviously both teams want to win this game," Van der Flier said. "Whoever wins will have good momentum going into Europe and I think that's massive, but we're not really looking past this game.

"If we are trying to get the win or a good performance, having played against top-class opposition and performed, that would be a positive lead-in to the weeks after."

 

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