Saturday 21 September 2019

Preparing for another big test from dynamic Bath back-row trio

Josh van der Flier in conversation with Scott Fardy during training this week. Photo: Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier in conversation with Scott Fardy during training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Josh Van Der Flier

It was a strange feeling at the weekend. A really tough game against a strong Bath side was to be expected and we got that in spades. Credit to Bath absolutely too, they didn't let us play but the strange thing was that it almost felt like a loss after the game.

I think that is a measure of where we are now as a team. We will absolutely take a win at the Rec but in the dressing rooms after the game, everyone was a small bit disappointed with our performance because of the amount of mistakes and things we would hope to do better.

As I said, with the perspective of a few days away from the game, an away win in Bath in the Champions Cup, we have to be pleased with that but I feel that initial disappointment almost was a good sign in preparing us for the week ahead because we all had that hunger to be better.

A unique challenge this time of year is to play back-to-back games, Exeter last year, Bath this year. Having played each other already in a tight game, home advantage will no doubt play a big part but after that game there is no doubt that it won't be an easy one.

Excited

I'm very excited to get out on the field in the Aviva again in front of the Leinster supporters. News during the week that ticket numbers have gone past 40,000 is brilliant to hear. You will go a long way across Europe and in any sport to find those kind of numbers at club games. It really is a special feature of our schedule the two games at the Aviva and we really enjoy the home away from home.

One message that we have been talking about this week is that the job is only half done so it is another huge week for the club. We have been caught before in these back-to-back games and nearly came unstuck last year against Exeter when we went behind in the game.

For me as a back-row player, Bath is a unique challenge. They have a very dynamic back-row that are tough men to play against and with the likes of Ellis, Underhill and Louw, it is bound to be another really tough contest for us.

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These are the games you want to play though, playing against some of the best back-rows in the world will be exciting and you want to test yourself against the best.

Speaking about the best, obviously the Guinness Series went well and I managed to get a few days off after the Ireland v USA game which was nice. Nothing hectic done just catching up and recharging the batteries and catching up on college. I also managed to get out and play a bit of golf.

I have started playing a bit of golf on rest days after games, I used to do nothing the day after a game and maybe go to the pool but now I have started trying to do something to get the body moving. Doesn't seem to make sense but it is always tough getting back into training after a break.

The first session back always tests the lungs even if it was only a few days off. Overall, I feel really good coming up off that break. Even though it is nice to get a break, I always feel like I should be doing some sort of training, almost feel guilty not being in training with everyone else. Breaks like those are a testament to the staff in Leinster and Ireland who look after us very well to keep us fresh for important times in the season.

Away from the 18 holes, I am working on my thesis proposal for my business master's, so along with the training things are pretty busy. I am fascinated by sports sponsorship, especially around athlete sponsorship, so I am hoping to do some research into that area as part of my thesis.

It has been a busy time in the house. Emmet Nolan, who is one of my housemates, was named in the Sunday Independent's 30 most exciting business prospects under 30. The rugby lads in the house - myself, Peter Dooley, Adam Byrne and Tom Daly - treated him to a nice dinner as a result. It is actually great to have such a mix in the house, six lads, four of us playing with Leinster, one entrepreneur and one tech consultant. There is always something going on aside from the usual training and rugby talk! But given that all of us play sport the topic is mostly sports-specific!

Christmas as a rugby player is different to all the others you had as a kid growing up or that you would see relatives enjoying. We have a very busy December schedule so that means work over Christmas.

Complaint

We have games each week so there is not a huge amount of time off. But that being said this year Munster is on the 29th so for once I won't be looking anxiously at the watch on Christmas Day. There is the chance to kick back more than you normally would.

It sounds like a complaint but I wouldn't change it for the world! Playing the sport that you love in and around Christmas and missing out on some elements is a necessary evil. And the flip of it is that you appreciate the day or two at home a bit more. I suppose that is no bad thing either!

Back to the house with the lads, we do Kris Kindle so the excitement is building up. Budget has been set and the messing has already started.

That same messing will continue right through into the new year and it is mad to think looking back on it that 12 months have passed. A year of highs and some lows but hopefully we can finish on a high. The interpros always have a great atmosphere so we have that to look forward to. But first, Bath in the Aviva!

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