Monday breakdown: Van der Flier taking inspiration from Nacewa’s power of positive thinking
Even on the other side of the world, long after having departed, Isa Nacewa is still inspiring Leinster in their quest to ensure that they finish the season with a trophy.
The legacy that Nacewa left at the club can never be underestimated and, as Josh van der Flier opened up about his latest return from injury, it offered an insight into the mindset needed to defy the odds in terms of a return from injury ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately for Van der Flier, he has become an expert in the field over the last couple of years and having essentially been told that his season was over, he refused to accept his fate.
The 26-year-old is renowned for how well he looks after himself behind the scenes – whether it is in regard to his work in training, his diet, his sleep patterns, Van der Flier is invariably top of the class in the Leinster set-up.
Having been out since undergoing groin surgery during the Six Nations, the flanker was thrust straight back into the action without having been given any kind of run-in to it.
Leo Cullen never hesitated in doing so and the word is Van Der Flier was very close to being involved against Saracens. How they could have done with his engine.
“In terms of a role model for other players to look to and how you manage yourself, he does an amazing job,” Cullen said after watching the Wicklow native put in an impressive man-of-the-match performance during Saturday’s win over Munster.
By his own admission, however, Van der Flier hasn’t always been as careful with the finer details.
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“I’ve always tried to be quite diligent, try and get the edge in different ways,” he explained.
“Looking back, even a couple of years ago, there are some things that were just silly I was doing.
“Maybe eating the wrong stuff or trying to do too much gym close to a game.
“Just some things I wouldn’t do now and I’m sure in a year, there will be something that I’ll think I was really silly doing that, I could have got a bit more of an edge if I was doing something different.”
Nacewa was a huge inspiration in that regard. He was a massive driver in the changing of the culture in Leinster, as Van der Flier explained: “His attitude towards training, towards everything, he was always positive.
“It was just his mindset and his mental strength was always absolutely incredible and he was mentioned this week, he was mentioned last week in the meetings.
“Everyone still talks about him. ‘What would Isa say? Isa would say this, Isa would say that.’ He has been an incredible influence on the club and still is.
“His mindset around injury definitely inspired me, especially when I hurt my knee.
“I had injuries before and kind of just ticked away, get the rehab done and get home, that kind of thing.
“But his whole mindset, he was big into positivity and the power of being positive about things.
“It helps the healing if you’re positive and not getting down on yourself. He’s a big inspiration that way and then obviously with the injuries it’s helpful to have the likes of Jordi Murphy, I had a good chat with him, Ed Byrne, Tom Daly.
“Those lads who had been through tough injuries and have a really good mindset around rehab. They’ve definitely helped a lot and then the medical staff have been brilliant as well.”
For all of the ultra positivity, the inevitable doubts that he may not be able to get up to speed for an interpro PRO14 semi-final crept in.
“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” he admitted.
“I was more nervous than I would normally be. That’s having not played in a few weeks. I was worried would I have the fitness to get through. You are always thinking those things.
“I remember doing an interview with Andrew Trimble and he was talking about how when he prepared for games, he would get real nervous, thinking, ‘This is the game where everyone is going to find out I’m no good.’
“There definitely is a bit of that. You have those moments.
“I try and block it out anyway. I’m sure it’s there in the background. You are thinking, ‘What if I have a terrible game here?’
“I’m not sure if it is the same for everyone. But, I come into a game, saying I’ve done everything well in the week and I have no reason to be nervous.
“That’s what I try to do. Still, there are those moments where you are nervous.”
Van der Flier’s timely return has given Leinster’s defence of their league title a major boost at just the right time and that also bodes well for Ireland’s World Cup hopes later this year.
The stats don't lie as Munster's plight summed up by numbers
Sometimes we are guilty of focusing too much on statistics, but at the RDS on Saturday the numbers told their own story as Munster were miles off Leinster in that regard too.
Munster’s discipline was shocking – no team is ever going to beat Leinster at home when they concede 13 penalties. In comparison, Leo Cullen’s men coughed up seven, which by their high standards was too many.
When watching the game live, if you felt that Munster were never likely to breach the Leinster line, the stats suggest that was indeed the case.
Munster’s blunt attack only managed a single line-break compared to a far more dangerous Leinster side, who made 10.
Munster had enough possession (53pc) and territory (52pc) to have offered much more in attack, but once again they looked devoid of any real ideas. Major changes needed.