Saturday 16 February 2019

Van der Flier expects 'tough' Coventry trip

Josh van der Flier. Photo: Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier. Photo: Sportsfile

Ryan Corry

Home advantage is a massive factor, no matter what code you're playing in. The atmosphere and drive of tens of thousands of voices behind you can be a telling factor in those narrow escapes to victory.

That's why Leinster's Josh van der Flier knows that Sunday's trip to Coventry's Ricoh Arena will pose a far different challenge to the one that they faced when swatting Wasps aside in the RDS.

On that night in October, the reigning Champions Cup winners ran in eight tries on their way to a 52-3 victory in front of their home support.

While the challenge will increase, the flanker believes that a solid away performance is something that has been missing from Leinster's current European campaign.

"We know how we like to protect our home ground and play well there so it'll be special for them any time they play at home," says Van der Flier (above).

"It's going to be pretty tough so we want to bring that performance we brought at the weekend, bring that to an away fixture, which would be massive for us."

Defeat to Toulouse in France was banished from the memory last weekend while a resilient Bath managed to prevent Leinster getting into a groove at the Rec.

Another factor in play this weekend is the wounded Wasps side looking to go out of the competition with a flourish, which Van der Flier and Leinster have personal experience of doing.

"A game that sticks out in my head is the Bath game we played three years ago where we had nothing on the line, we were out of the group and then we played Bath at home and the mindset we had there that we really wanted to put a marker down. It had been a disappointing season in Europe and I think that's what their mindset will be, they'll want to go after us and protect their home ground."

So for 80 minutes on Sunday, home advantage will be the most important phrase on anyone's lips. Wasps, hoping to give their fans something to shout about, and Leinster, trying desperately to ensure that they nail down a home quarter-final.

"The goal coming into Europe was to secure a home quarter-final which is massive for us. You look at last year having Saracens at home in the Aviva with the brilliant fans that we have obviously makes it a lot easier," added the Irish international.

With Luke McGrath now injured, Jamison Gibson-Park is expected to line out at scrum-half, leaving either Scott Fardy or James Lowe out of the match-day squad, although Van der Flier insists the former will play a part regardless.

"He's obviously a really smart player and he's a world-class back-row, been to a World Cup final and played in some incredible games with some incredible players. He's been really helpful especially at lineout time. Every area of the game he has an input in and he's helping a good few of us improve."

Irish Independent

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