Saturday 17 February 2018

Seasonal low to career high - a mad few weeks

Playing my part in first European knockout game helped put Six Nations injury woe behind me

Josh Van der Flier battles it out against Matt Symons, left, and Christian Wade of Wasps. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Josh Van der Flier battles it out against Matt Symons, left, and Christian Wade of Wasps. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Josh Van der Flier - Player Diary

Well that was interesting! It has been a crazy few weeks. And as with all professional players, some lows and then some massive highs - getting injured in the middle of the Six Nations but then playing in my first professional knock-out game in a near sold-out Aviva Stadium.

The shoulder recovered slightly ahead of schedule which was great and meant I was available for the Cardiff game in the Guinness PRO12. I managed to get 80 minutes under my belt for the first time since playing Montpellier back in January.

It is always very encouraging coming back from injury and getting to play a lot of minutes because there are doubts naturally. I was surprised how well the fitness held up because of not playing for a few weeks so credit to the S&C team for keeping me in good shape even if I was hampered in other ways with the shoulder.

The key element with all injuries is getting a full week or so under the belt and I got to train fully the week before the Cardiff game so I got a good fitness hit.

Can training match a game? Well to be fair our sessions are excellent prep for a game.

The intensity is not far off what you would experience in a game, apart from the contact side of course.

Dan Leavy goes through his paces. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Dan Leavy goes through his paces. Photo: SPORTSFILE

I don't think we would have many fit players left if we were playing full-on every day in training! That's not really the way it is done anymore.

Training these days has a lot more science to it, and each player is monitored throughout a session and throughout a week to make sure they are fresh for the weekend.

I have heard it said before, 'heroes are not made on the training pitch' - in other words, make sure you are ready for the weekend! And that's the way we prepare. We keep the hits and the physicality for the opposition on Saturday.

It was an incredible experience being involved in the Champions Cup quarter-final. The whole week was that bit more tense and the trainings that bit more intense also. But the good thing about it was that everyone treated it the same as any other game.

Justin Tipuric. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Justin Tipuric. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Odd to say that given what was at stake but we tried to prepare as normal - we prepared as well as we always try to.

The game itself was intense but no different to other big games I had been lucky to be a part of. I came on after 20 minutes as a blood sub. The game was a fast one to get into but before I could settle in I was back off for Dan Leavy, who was getting stitched up.

The crowd of just over 50,000 was something I won't forget in a hurry - so loud, and the adrenaline rush that kind of noise gives you on the field is incredible.

It's just a pity the way the draw works out that it couldn't be a home semi-final, but no doubt the sea of blue will be over to Lyon in full force.

The nature of professional sport meant that come Monday morning everything from the weekend was almost forgotten about and the focus was on a huge game against third-placed Ospreys.

There are a lot of tough games but this is definitely one of the toughest in the calendar.

We will have to be at our best and with Justin Tipuric likely in the back-row the breakdown will be a test for the lucky ones involved.

On less serious matters, RC1 has moved across the road to a new house so we are settling in on a new street. Moving house was not the best thing to be doing after training - it doesn't quite fit the recovery criteria - but it had to be done.

After Leinster's good win we had to do a bit of consoling for poor Emmet Nolan, who had just played for Offaly against Tipp in hurling, which as the bookies predicted, didn't go so well. He will have better days no doubt.

The next few weeks are what all the hard work is for, but such an exciting time for us as players and no doubt the supporters too.

One game at a time… but every game is one to look forward to at this stage of the season.

Irish Independent

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