Josh ready for Saints backlash

Van der Flier is the leading light from Blues Academy

Josh van der Flier after Leinster’s victory over Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend Picture: Sportsfile

Des Berry

Josh van der Flier is 'The Poster Boy' for the Leinster Academy.

Originally, he was not exactly painted as the next superstar of Irish rugby, coming out of Wesley College.

The flanker simply put his head down and dedicated his working life to getting better every day.

This sounds like a very American sporting cliché. Invariably, talent only gets you inside the gate.

It is the drive to develop through the proper work ethic that keeps you on the inside.

Joey Carbery was contracted out of The Academy ahead of time for this season on the basis of what he showed the coaches in the All-Ireland League and within the environment.

The Academy conveyor belt continues to roll out potential Ireland internationals. Adam Byrne, Ross Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin made their debuts in The Champions Cup last Friday.

It looks like two of them will start in the return leg against Northampton Saints.


The setbacks suffered by Jonathan Sexton and Joey Carbery means the spotlight has moved onto out-half Ross Byrne, halfway through his third year in The Academy.

Ireland international Van der Flier has an interesting inside opinion on Byrne.

"I was lucky to play with him as well a couple of years ago with the (Leinster) A's.

"He's one of those players who just bosses everyone around him.

"He just controls the game really well and has very high standards for himself as well.

"I think you saw that, how well he did when he came on in a tight situation at the weekend and contributed towards the win."

There have been many comparisons made between Byrne and Sexton for their similar physical make-up and style of play, not necessarily for the personalities that drive it.

Here, there appears to emerge a divergence: "He's very calm, very calm," shared Van der Flier.

"Personally, I can see if he ever makes a mistake in training, he's straight back into it.

"He doesn't show any emotion at all. He's very good in that way."

Leinster will need a cool head and a cold hand at the tiller when Northampton come to Dublin on Saturday evening looking to do what they have in the last three seasons.

The English club have made a habit out of turning muck into magnificence in these back-to-back tussles in The Champions Cup.

They lost at home to Ulster in 2012 and won away (10-9) at Ravenhill, lost at home Leinster in 2013 and won away (18-9) at The Aviva in 2013.

Last year, they reacted to a 33-3 smashing by eventual finalists Racing 92 with a 9-9 draw, at home that time.

There is something in Northampton's DNA that suggests they need to be challenged by adversity to meet a challenge head-on.

"They're going come at us really hard," said Van der Flier.

"Having seen us play, obviously, the way we attack, the way our game plan was set up, that kind of thing, they'll be really ready for us this time."

Leinster's domination of The Saints, especially at the set-piece, laid the platform for what was to come at Franklin's Gardens.

Everything good about what they did came off it.

They have to decide whether to vary what they did last Friday or to adopt an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' attitude to round four.

"Well, I think you can certainly learn from what went well and see what you didn't do too well and try and change that.

"If you concentrate on your own performance, and perform as well as you can, I think if you can execute it really well then you probably can do the same things twice.

"It is just the coaches are brilliant at coming up with the game plan and they will come up with a great one, I've no doubt.

"We will just have to go out and execute if we want to get the win."