Monday 21 October 2019

'He's probably been the best at the breakdown in Europe' - van der Flier relishing chance to link up with Beirne

10 October 2019; Josh van der Flier during an Ireland Rugby press conference at the Grand Hyatt in Fukuoka, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
10 October 2019; Josh van der Flier during an Ireland Rugby press conference at the Grand Hyatt in Fukuoka, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cian Tracey in Fukuoka

There is a lot to like about an Irish back-row that includes Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Beirne for the first time.

The energetic pair have never started a game together and against a meaty Samoan pack, they will be expected to out-run and out-think their opponents.

After a night off against Russia last week, van der Flier is refreshed and ready to go as Beirne gets set to feature in his fourth game on the bounce.

Joe Schmidt has largely used Beirne as a lock, as have Munster, but it is worth remembering that most of the Kildare native's best days with the Scarlets came in the number six jersey.

With CJ Stander providing the bulk, having two groundhogs like van der Flier and Beirne to hunt rucks and get on the ball could be the magic formula that Ireland need.

10 October 2019; Tadhg Beirne during Ireland Rugby squad training at Shirouzuoike Park in Fukuoka, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"He's a great player," van der Flier said of Beirne.

"He's probably been the best at the breakdown in Europe the last two years. He has been incredibly impressive.

"I'm sure we'll see a bit of that on Saturday but he has been brilliant, a really good ball carrier as well. He has been outstanding for Munster all year as well, so it is exciting to be playing alongside him."

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Ireland will look to play a high-octane game against Samoa, whose legs could tire late on.

Although they have grown into the tournament, the Islanders have put a huge amount into the last three weeks, whereas Ireland have been able to freshen up their starting team.

"I have watched the Samoan games over the years and you get some big hits, real physicality, but they've got some really dangerous runners, as they always have," van der Flier warned.

"Their pack looks really good, a big maul threat, and they have good variety to their plays. They look very dangerous at times and we know it will be tough. If you give them space or defend badly against them they take those edges quite well."

Fiji gave Wales a huge fright on Wednesday and even though Warren Gatland's side eventually got the job done, it will serve as a warning sign for Ireland as to what can go wrong, if they take their eye off the ball against a team with nothing to lose. 

"Yeah, definitely, we know what we've seen in terms of what Samoa can do," van der Flier added. 

"We've seen Fiji against Australia as well, they were pretty impressive, so it's going to be a tough game, I think.

"You have to appreciate how high quality the opposition is and then try and break them down. You can't go out looking to score tries openly and expect a really open game, you've got to break teams down first.

"That's with any team, but especially in this competition. It's everyone's World Cup final, really, these final games in the pool because there is so much on the line.

"So either it is a team's last game before they go home or it's a team's chance to get into the quarters. It's gonna be incredibly physical. We're expecting a tough game, for sure."

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