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Dublin: 9°C Monday 26 October 2020
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CJ Stander has been learning Amhrán na bhFiann in Ireland camp

The Munster captain may make his debut as soon as next weekend.

CJ STANDER HAS been busy learning the words to Amhrán na bhFiann since he heard of his call-up to the Ireland squad.

CJ Stander Stander hopes to make his Ireland debut next weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He may get a chance to unveil his attempt at the Irish national anthem as soon as Sunday week, when Ireland face Wales in their Six Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium.

“My wife got up YouTube and I’ve started [learning],” said Stander after today’s open training session in Dublin.

“There is a clip where you can read the English and back into Gaelic and then you can start singing. I’m rooming with Donnacha Ryan, who is fluent in Gaelic, so it’s good. He just starts singing and I follow up. We’ll see how good his teaching is when the chance comes up.”

The feeling is that Stander’s opportunity will come next weekend. He qualified for Ireland under the three-year residency rule last October, having been born in South Africa and captained their U20 side in 2010.

Richardt Strauss, back in the Ireland squad this year, is another South African native who has taken this journey. The Leinster hooker, who is now an Irish citizen, famously belted out the national anthem on his debut – which came against South Africa – and Stander has been asking him for a little advice.

“We spoke a bit about it,” said Stander. “It was three years and he said, as you saw on TV, that when he started singing he was very emotional and stuff.

“But you have work to do on that day and when you get on the pitch you can’t really let the emotions keep you back. If you don’t perform on the pitch, no one is going to pick you again.”

Stander has his feet firmly on the ground, stating after every question that he can only put his hand up for selection and that nothing is guaranteed with Ireland. The rest of us can anticipate a debut.

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CJ Stander Stander claims a lineout at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Munster captain’s excellent form has provided Schmidt with a viable alternative to incumbent Jamie Heaslip in the number eight shirt, though Stander only has positive words about Ireland’s vice-captain.

“Jamie is someone you can look up to,” said the Munster man. “He’s never injured and he’s very professional. It’s good to get into a camp with him and see how he works and his way of doing stuff.

“I just want to put up my hand and see what happens. If selection comes next week, we’ll just train and get through our stuff. We’ll see.”

Blindside is another potential slot for Stander, even if there is meaty competition in the form of Rhys Ruddock and, potentially, Sean O’Brien. Again, Stander would be thrilled just to be picked.

“I played my first few matches for Munster at six when I arrived and it’s something I’m familiar with, that’s where I started my rugby off.

“I just want to put up my hand and if I get selected anywhere in the back row or on the bench, it doesn’t matter. I’ll just be delighted to get that opportunity.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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