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'I have got a bit of a lashing from people outside' - CJ Stander steps up

The Ireland back row was busy after moving to blindside flanker against Wales.

WITH JACK CONAN applying pressure at number eight and given another chance in that jersey for Ireland last weekend, CJ Stander instead made his point in the number six shirt.

Having had a quiet outing at Twickenham two weekends before, the Munster man was back somewhere close to his busy best on Saturday as Ireland beat Wales 19-10 to give themselves some momentum heading into the World Cup.

cj-stander-tackled-by-rhys-patchell-and-jonathan-davies Stander makes a powerful carry before Rob Kearney's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There is still a possibility that Stander and Conan could link up in the same starting Ireland back row in Japan, but it was noticeable that Stander looked more aggressive and dynamic in the carry against the Welsh.

His standout moment was running over the top of Rhys Patchell in the key carry just before Rob Kearney’s opening try, ensuring rapidly-recycled possession. In total, Stander contributed 14 carries, while he hammered into some of his eight tackles and claimed two lineouts for Ireland.

His work-rate was impressive, but that carry over Patchell felt particularly good.

“I haven’t had a good few carries in the last few weeks,” said Stander post-match. “I have got a bit of a lashing from people outside.

“But look, when the team works hard, we get momentum. It’s difficult for the defence to get around the corner and that’s just what I want to do for the team – get them on the front foot and enjoy those carries.”

Stander has been well aware of the criticism of his form, though he does his best to pay it no heed.

“I have had a good bit of it over the last few years,” said Stander. “It’s tough sometimes when the conversations get moved onto the family.

cj-stander-with-his-daughter-everli-after-the-game Stander with his daughter Everli. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But stuff like that doesn’t really get into me. I just want to play the game and make sure that I put my hand up for the players around me and be sure I’m good in that jersey so I get selected.

“It is a strong point in my game. It’s something that I had to work on and keep on working on because I think if you settle, it’s just going to stagnate and get you in trouble.” 

Stander enjoyed bringing his young daughter, Everli, onto the pitch at the Aviva Stadium at the final whistle, a first after her birth in August.

“It was a great moment. I just changed her nappy there as well! It’s been a big change over the last few weeks. I was very emotional before the game as well. It was good to have her there. It’s something I never thought was going to happen.”

A member of Ireland’s leadership group, Stander ended the game as Ireland’s captain, with Rory Best and Johnny Sexton having been replaced, while he found the task of moving back to the blindside – where his Test career started – comfortable.

Reflecting everyone else’s feelings about Ireland’s back row, Stander said it will be “interesting to see what Joe’s plans are for the next few weeks.”

He stressed that there is still plenty Ireland can get better at after this win over the Welsh but Stander was pleased to feel the collective energy in the performance after their pre-season training had been tapered off. 

cj-stander-tackled-by-jonathan-davies-and-elliot-dee Stander's carrying was powerful. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Stander seemed genuinely surprised that Ireland are now ranked number one in the world, but he feels Schmidt’s men are heading for their World Cup opener against Scotland in a good place.

“We think we made a step up to where we want to be again but I think there’s a few things we’ve got to work on,” he said.

“We’ve got a few days now to rest up and then switch on straight away to Scotland. We’ve played them a good few times, they’re a great team.

“Their backs are very nippy and very quick. We’ve been disappointed against them a few times in the past so I think we’re going to take it day by day, get on the plane on Wednesday and then switch the head onto that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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