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Stander's appetite for Irish jersey whetted by Six Nations triumph

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Stander is completing his third season in Ireland but will not become eligible until after the World Cup as he only arrived here in October 2012.

Stander is completing his third season in Ireland but will not become eligible until after the World Cup as he only arrived here in October 2012.

SPORTSFILE

Stander is completing his third season in Ireland but will not become eligible until after the World Cup as he only arrived here in October 2012.

Munster's South African back-rower CJ Stander, who becomes Irish qualified in November, said the manner of the Six Nations triumph has whetted his appetite to put himself in the frame for Joe Schmidt's side.

Stander is completing his third season in Ireland but will not become eligible until after the World Cup as he only arrived here in October 2012.

Ireland's unprecedented bid to win the Six Nations for a third year in a row will be Stander's first opportunity to stake a claim, and he is in no doubt about the standard required.

"Saturday was the best ever - if you ever want to watch rugby then I think you have to go back and watch it on TV again, then you'll know what rugby is about," he said.

"It's great for northern hemisphere to see so much running rugby and before the World Cup too, it's going to be an interesting World Cup now for sure."

Stander, who will be 25 next month, said that Ireland's displays have not gone unnoticed in South Africa and that Schmidt's charges are regarded as serious contenders.

"They were delighted with some of the change from the normal to the running game and I think from looking at that they're getting a bit anxious about the World Cup now," he said.

"I think it could now be a northern hemisphere team (to win it) and Ireland are going to be right up there. It's great."

So, if Ireland were to meet South Africa, say, in a World Cup semi-final, who would the farmer's son from George in the Western Cape be shouting for? "I said it before, I'm Irish now so I'll back the Irish boys," insisted Stander.

His primary focus is continuing the sort of form for Munster which has already seen him pick up four man of the match awards this season, scoring six tries in 19 games, and become one of the key men in Anthony Foley's side.

He is looking for a big finish to the season and while contact from Irish management has been minimal so far, the South African is hopeful that he can play his way into Schmidt's thoughts when he becomes qualified.

"I haven't had much contact but I'm sure when the time comes around he (Schmidt) might start speaking to me," he reflected.

He is looking forward to welcome the Six Nations winners back into the fold, none more so than captain Paul O'Connell, who he has admired for years.

"I idolised him since I was a small boy, he is a legend and has shown it again last weekend," he said.

"He always leads by example and to grab himself a try, I was delighted for him.

"That's the way he wants to play, weekend in and out. He is a legend all over the world, for me to just play with him is great."

Irish Independent