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Van der Flier insists Leinster have the players to compete


Leinster’s Josh van der Flier. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE


Leinster’s Josh van der Flier. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Josh van der Flier is a man with no current conception of fear.

Last weekend, he jousted with the continent's best openside and more than held his own in the exalted company of a recent European Player of the Year.

And yet the personal acclamation cannot replace the stinging pain of defeat as Leinster ultimately exited, their worst run ever in Europe unfortunately coinciding with the 22-year-old's debut campaign.

"It's more exciting to win," he says. "I've been happy enough with my own performance over the last while but then when it doesn't contribute towards a win it's hard to be happy after the game.

"The Ulster game was when I was most pleased because we got the win and I managed to perform as well. It is bittersweet."

Even when the context of the world-class performers is put to him - after all, no less a titan than Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe trotted on to assume the Steffon Armitage shift - Van der Flier refuses to make allowances.

"I'm trying to aim high, so I want to get to that stage eventually, hopefully where I'd be in Armitage's position someday.

"That's where I'm working towards. I'm still not quite where I want to be in terms of having an effect on the game involving such quality players."

Van der Flier has also had to swallow, or at least taste, the despair of many supporters who fear that their whitewash in Europe indicates that the three-time champions are in danger of slipping further and further behind the elite.

As a representative from the cadre of players seeking to justify exactly why this will not be the case, Van der Flier's defence may be an expected defiance; a bit like when you see him play, however, it is the strength contained therein which is surprising.

"I think the quality of players that are here are more than good enough - I don't think there's a need for that at all," he says of the scramble amongst some quarters to throw more money at the deficit in standards.

"If anything, there are too many good players in the provinces and not enough teams to get them all played.

"It's more the performances rather than the players; it's getting the team to perform.

"You look at the amount of players that were in the Irish squad during the World Cup, there's more than enough experience."

Leinster loosehead prop Cian Healy, who played against Toulon having had a two-week ban for clashing with Guilhem Guirado lifted on appeal, will find out this morning whether his application was successful as he bids to face Munster and Connacht during the festive season.

Irish Independent