Sunday 20 May 2018

Second-season syndrome not a fear for Van der Flier

Flanker keen to kick on after stellar breakthrough

Josh van der Flier Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Josh van der Flier is already so last season, as they say in the best fashion circles. But Leinster's exciting conveyor belt of young talent seem determined to keep following his trend-setting ways.

This time last year, as the World Cup carnival rolled into England, the openside was quietly beginning to ripple the waves upon which he would surf for the entire season, an international debut following hot on the heels of provincial and European bows.

This term, Joey Carbery is the name upon everyone's chattering lips; and Van der Flier's advice to his team-mate is to carry on learning.

Even if he drops the ball, as he did into Tommy Seymour's grateful hands en route to defeat in Glasgow last weekend. It happens to the best. There's always the next ball.

"In a pre-season game last season I dropped the ball over the line when I was clean through," recalls the 23-year-old van der Flier (right) as Leinster prepare to welcome back a slew of his fellow Irish stars for their second trip in six days to Scotland and this evening's eminently winnable trip to Edinburgh.

"It's tough. It's a learning curve. It is something you have to try and get used to but just try and focus on the next thing," he says.

"We all need to keep in the focus for the full 80 minutes. We played really well for the first 50 minutes (last week) and then just lapsed off a bit.

"Maybe it was concentration but I'm not really sure what it was. Whenever you make a mistake you have got to learn from that and try to up the energy and not concede again. That's what we work on.

"You have to live in the moment and try and play the next ball. Just encourage (the young players).

"Any time we conceded a try - to just focus on the next ball. Thinking about your mistakes, you are just going to end up making more mistakes so just focus on the next thing."

Van der Flier benefited from such an anchoring approach despite being such a runaway success; Jordi Murphy is one player who dipped in recent times following a superb debut season but his fellow back-rower is braced for the challenge.

"I try not to think about it," says Van der Flier of potential second season syndrome.

"Just focus on that next training session, try and do as well as I can in the next game and try to prepare as well if not better than I did last season.

"I learned a huge amount last year, probably more so from the losses and mistakes than from things that went well, and hopefully I'll be better for it.

"I was a bit surprised by how well it went last year. I remember doing a press thing before the World Cup, and my focus was just on playing. Then I got to play European games, and international games. It was kind of surprising, even if I aimed for those things."

Full-back Rob Kearney underwent a scan on his knee this week and, although it is not yet clear if he will return in time for the Champions Cup campaign, his Grade Two PCL injury is not deemed to be as serious as first thought.

With Kearney out, Zane Kirchner, a try scorer last week in Glasgow, moves to full-back with Dave Kearney continuing on the left wing, while Isa Nacewa also comes in.

Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park makes his first start in Leinster colours at scrum-half alongside Carbery.

Jack McGrath and Sean Cronin come into the front-row alongside Mike Ross to form a very experienced unit as the IRFU release their Ireland contingent, the trio boasting 345 Leinster and 146 Ireland caps between them.

In the second-row Devin Toner comes in to partner Mike McCarthy while in the back row Jamie Heaslip scrums down at No 8 for the first time this season with Murphy at blindside and Dan Leavy at openside. Van der Flier is on the bench.

"We will have to be at our best against a powerful Leinster outfit," says Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons.

Verdict: Leinster

Edinburgh - G Bryce, M Allen, S Tofilau, P Burleigh, T Brown, D Weir, N Fowles, R Sutherland, R Ford, WP Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist (capt), M Bradbury, H Watson, V Fihaki.

Reps: S McInally, A Dell, K Bryce, F McKenzie, C Du Preez, S Hidalgo-Clyne, S Rasolea, B Kinghorn.

Leinster - Z Kirchner, I Nacewa (capt), G Ringrose, N Reid, D Kearney, J Carbery, J Gibson-Park, J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, J Murphy, D Leavy, J Heaslip.

Reps: B Byrne, C Healy, T Furlong, R Molony, J van der Flier, L McGrath, C Marsh, R O'Loughlin.

Ref - D Wilkinson (IRFU)

Edinburgh v Leinster, Live, TG4, 7.35pm

Irish Independent

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