Monday 17 June 2019

Van der Flier: It was always my goal to make it back for All Blacks game

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

Cian Tracey

As Josh van der Flier was helped from the Stade de France pitch by two medics back in February, if you had then offered him the kind of storming comeback that he has managed in recent months, he would have snapped your hand off for it.

When his worst fears were confirmed in the coming days, and as soon as Van der Flier was pencilled in for surgery on his damaged his ACL, the relentlessly driven 25-year-old immediately set about how to best reduce the amount of time on the sideline.

In the end, the serious knee injury cost Van der Flier seven months out, during which time he missed out on the Grand Slam as well as Leinster's Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 double.

Some players might never recover fully recover mentally from such a devastating blow, while others would take it in their stride and use it to their advantage.

Van der Flier definitely falls into the latter category. Speak to anyone in or around the Leinster set-up and they will tell you that the flanker is one of the most dedicated players in the squad, both on and off the pitch.

Surprise

From that end, it perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise that since battling back to full fitness, Van der Flier forced his way into Joe Schmidt's plans and played a key role in the historic home win over the All Blacks.

"If you got me to put a bet on . . . obviously you have your aims and everything but if you asked me how confident I was of really doing it, I don't know it would be hard to say," he said at the launch of the Student Enterprise Programme in his Alma mater Wesley College.

"It was obviously the goal to get back starting for Ireland but at the time I got injured it was looking like I'd be back just after the November internationals.

"It was looking unrealistic at the start and then got a bit ahead of schedule and then obviously got back a bit sooner than expected. It worked out quite well.

"I was more aiming for the European weeks before so the Wasps and Toulouse games. I was aiming for them because I knew if I'm fit the week of the Italy game, and that's my first week back, realistically you're doing very well to be involved in that having not played for eight or nine months.

"There are times when you feel like you could definitely walk but they're telling you to slow it down. My knee felt really stable and strong and I felt like I could almost play now, but they were like 'No, if you go quick now, it will flare something up and set you back.'

"I was trying to work on as much rugby skills as I could."

Irish Independent

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