Sport Leinster Rugby

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Van der Flier says there's no room to rue World Cup

Van der Flier: ‘It’s expected I’d have to perform because all the back-row have been playing well’. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Van der Flier: ‘It’s expected I’d have to perform because all the back-row have been playing well’. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

There have been times after previous World Cups when the internationals came back in and stank the provinces out with their hangovers.

Understandably low after another quarter-final exit, the Ireland stars faced into another eight months of rugby with a sense of doom and gloom that took a couple of weeks to get out of their systems.

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Four years ago, the hangover lasted a full season and none of Ireland's Champions Cup contenders got out of their pool.

At Leinster, that opened the door for a new generation of talent to emerge and Josh van der Flier was part of the contingent who took full advantage. Now, he's one of those Ireland players who has come back from Japan after yet another disappointing exit.

But he knows that licking his wounds will only open the door for Scott Penny or Will Connors who impressed when he was away.

And if Van der Flier wasn't already aware of the need to perform, he was reminded of it within a few days of joining up with his club-mates in UCD.

"It was one thing that Stuart (Lancaster) and Leo (Cullen) said to me when I came back, that basically it's expected that I'd have to perform because all the back-row are all playing well," the Ireland openside revealed.

"There's a lot more pressure on the position... but I suppose there always is."

The genial 26-year-old responded well against Benetton last weekend, laying on a try for Johnny Sexton in a performance that saw him make his customary 18 tackles but also carry for 46 metres in six attempts.

He enjoyed being back in blue and he's been impressed with some of the new faces who have stepped up while he was away with the national team.

"Definitely, yeah. You look at Rónan Kelleher, who has been scoring tries every week, no bother to him!" he said with a smile. "And at No 7, Will, Scott Penny, they've been incredible.

"It was one of the things watching the games, coming back from the World Cup, I was thinking over the last couple of weeks that if I don't train at my best or put in a really good performance when I can then I won't be playing, because the other lads would deserve it because they've been playing so well.

"Obviously they've got the club to the position we're in in the PRO14, so they've been incredible and it really pushes us on."

Van der Flier was determined to flush the World Cup from his system with a game straight away.

"I suppose the moment we'd come home from the World Cup, all I wanted to do was play again because you always remember the last game and you don't want the last game, a loss, hanging over you," he said.

"It's normally a PRO14 game you come back in for, obviously there's a bit of pressure there but Europe is a different level.

"I got two full weeks' training leading in and that helped a lot. I felt comfortable enough but obviously I was maybe a small bit rusty with some bits and pieces but I felt good coming back in.

"It was good, there was a good flow to the game. I thought we attacked quite well and managed to find a bit of space as well, got a few carries in as well which was nice.

"It was just the way the game panned out, Rory O'Loughlin put me into a nice gap once and then Johnny obviously made a break and passed to me and I got it back to him (for his try) ... I ended up with the ball quite a bit so I was happy enough."

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