Josh van der Flier jokes that he hasn’t been practising place-kicking this week – but, given his impressive showing at the lineout in Murrayfield last weekend, you wouldn’t back against the world player of the year slotting a shot at goal against England today if called upon.
“Hopefully it will be normal enough for everyone else’s sake, but I’ll be ready,” Van der Flier laughs.
“I don’t think I’ll be place-kicking or anything this week! I think I’d be useless at that but you never know, someday, a Barbarians match or something like that, later down the line.”
As for the Ireland hookers, they have been looking over their shoulder, hoping Van der Flier passes on a couple of throwing tips to them.
“I was chatting to a couple of the lads, Dan Sheehan was saying I wasn’t allowed to throw anymore in training!
“But I think everybody’s safe, because I don’t think I’ll go for scrummaging there (hooker). They’re very safe,” Van der Flier adds.
All jokes aside, the Wicklow native is hoping for a much smoother outing at the Aviva Stadium this evening, in what is set to be a landmark occasion for him, as he will win his 50th cap.
“In my head I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’m kind of acknowledging that that’s what it is, I guess. And, as well, obviously, the significance of the big game that it is – and what’s on the line,” Van der Flier says.
“My grandad George hasn’t been to a game in, it must be a couple of years. He hasn’t been well enough, probably, to come. But we’re going to try to get him as well, and that would be special.
“Everyone I’ve ever known I think is looking for a ticket (laughs), so, yeah, it’s an exciting weekend ahead.”
With Van der Flier’s family watching on from the stand this evening, the back-row is hoping to make it a memorable day for them just as much as for himself.
“My mum (Olly) and dad (Dirk), my Dad especially, he doesn’t miss many games. We could be playing in Dragons and he’d do his best to get over if he can, if he can make it work around work,” Van der Flier explains.
“He’ll always say he used to go and watch Wesley playing High School, and he’d try and move his meetings around to go and see that, or the thirds or whatever it was, when I was in fourth year. And if he was going to those, he was like ‘I’m definitely not missing a game in the Aviva’.
“I suppose the support they’ve given me and people along the journey, people who have known me all the way through those stages, it’s nice for a game like this, it’s nice to have them there as they’ve been the ones since the start.”
Since being crowned world player of the year last November, Van der Flier (29) has noticed space has been at a premium, as well as coming in for some extra attention.
“There has definitely been a few times in games where I get the ball and find there are three lads on me, where I thought I’d have a bit more space,” he says.
“It might not be the case and it’s in my head, but there are definitely a couple of times when I’ve kinda felt like someone has enjoyed putting a big hit on me or something.”
Has that led to him being on the receiving end of sledging from opponents?
“Not really no, thankfully. More the lads on my team if I make a mistake,” Van der Flier adds with a grin.
“Not too many changes. But I suppose I definitely find, with ball-carrying for example, I’m marked a bit more I guess. But it leaves space for other people.”