CJ Stander: 'I felt inside I wanted to flip the table and dance on it'

Ireland’s Six Nations title is the Munster man’s first title success at senior level.

THE SPEECHES HAD just concluded, the beef wellington had been polished off and Ireland’s post-match dinner was coming towards its conclusion on Saturday evening in Dublin as the final whistle went in Paris.

Eddie Jones’ men came up short, Ireland’s third Six Nations title under Joe Schmidt was confirmed, and though many in the function room at the Aviva Stadium raised a cheer, the Irish players were rather reserved.

CJ Stander Stander can help Ireland to a Grand Slam on Saturday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I remember I was sitting next to Conor Murray, Earlsy, and Garry [Ringrose], and all of our partners, so we were like, ‘Congratulations’,” says CJ Stander.

“We had a glass of wine and said congratulations, and then you’re back into this week. There’s a lot to think about and work on.”

Really, though, Stander was briefly bursting with delight inside.

He quickly regathered himself and focused in on the Grand Slam shot that now awaits Ireland in Twickenham on Saturday, but he had to enjoy the taste of title success for just a moment.

“To win a championship with a game in hand is a great achievement and I will never take that away. I’ve never had it – it’s my first senior win ever in my life,” explains Stander.

“I felt inside I wanted to flip the table and dance on it. But I knew we had another game to go and it’s something that comes around every 40 years, so it’s something special.

“We need to make sure that we keep it inside. If you can get this right, then the celebrations on Sunday are going to be great.”

Hang on, his first senior tournament win?

It’s hard to believe, given how impressive Stander has been on the pitch since joining Munster from the Bulls back in 2012, but this man has never been involved in a trophy success in senior rugby.

CJ Stander celebrates with wife Jean-Marie after the game Stander with his wife, Jean-Marié, after Ireland's win over Scotland. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

So he could be forgiven for feeling a little more emotion than many of his team-mates in the Ireland squad. For some, it was a third Six Nations title. For Stander, it was a first trophy at the age of 27.

“It was one of my main goals, I tell you that,” he says. “I’ve been in a lot of finals, a lot of semi-finals, a lot of groups that got there and didn’t have it.

“Last year against Scarlets, last year against Saracens, it’s tough. Glasgow four years ago up in Belfast was tough on a provincial level.

“When you get into this group, and as a new guy in my first two years, you just try to play well and fill in, and then you get to a point where you feel you can give something back to the group and back to the other players.

“You want to start winning things because you know that people talk that way, train that way. To win something, I didn’t know to cry or to laugh.

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“But again we’ve got a week to go still. It was good, that five minutes I had with my wife to celebrate it. It’s still unreal.”

Stander says that the non-playing attendees at the post-match dinner celebrated and “even the Scotland players had a few cheers” when England were beaten, but Schmidt’s men were very muted and very professional.

CJ Stander and Devin Toner with Jonny Gray A clear yellow card for Devin Toner. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

If a first Six Nations title felt good to Stander, a Grand Slam would be pretty sweet, to say the least.

“The players in this group know that we’ll never get it again, so we know that we have to train well and play well,” says Stander.

“We don’t want to wake up on Sunday being happy, but sad as well. We’ve got an opportunity and we want to take it, but we know it’s not going to be easy.

“We know that the players in this group won’t have this opportunity again, so we want to give something back to the guys who’ve been injured and we want to give something back to the coaches too.”

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Murray Kinsella

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