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CJ Stander pushes passing skills as opposition analyse his ball-carrying

The number eight says Munster boss Johann van Graan has helped him to develop.

SPEAKING TODAY, WARREN Gatland picked out “the running power” of CJ Stander as an important strength in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team as the Wales boss looked forward to Saturday’s clash in Dublin.

The Munster man’s ball-carrying quality and work rate is well known, but Stander himself has been keen to develop his game in recent times.

CJ Stander Stander is set to return to Ireland's number eight jersey this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Blasting into defenders is all well and good but it can become a little too predictable, allowing the opposition to team up with double tackles that sap attacking momentum.

As such, Stander has put a focus on his passing ability and the results have been clear to see for those willing to look – with the number eight increasingly comfortable making link passes out to his backs or tipping-on short passes to fellow forwards on his shoulder.

For both Munster and Ireland, Stander’s passing numbers have risen this season and while Schmidt’s national team are getting the benefits, the back row says Munster’s Johann van Graan has been the key driver.

“It’s something I looked on as an individual,” said Stander today. “Teams know what you do as a player, they look at you, do good analysis during the week. You have to change a bit here and there, so that’s me passing the ball a bit more or using my feet.

“It’s something I wouldn’t say I spoke to Joe about, it’s something I spoke to Johann in Munster about a lot. He knew me as a younger player and maybe changed my game from when he last coached me.”

Stander’s growth in this area has coincided with Ireland’s increased percentages of passes from their forwards, with the likes of Devin Toner, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Leavy, Iain Henderson and Peter O’Mahony also contributing.

The linking passes from forwards have been effective against the likes of Italy, Argentina and South Africa in Ireland’s recent Test games, but the development faces its stiffest test yet against the Welsh defence on Saturday.

CJ Stander Stander has looked to develop his game. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland have struggled to break down the Welsh at important times in their clashes in the last few years, but those simple passes from forwards could be the key this time around.

“Teams do good analysis against you so if you can use those small margins – using your feet or a pass – against the defence, it’s something we all work on,” says Stander.

“Rugby is changing to a place where everyone is expected to pass like a nine or a 10, you know?

“Some of the forwards have unbelievable skills and it’s just getting that confidence into games is the main thing.”

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Murray Kinsella

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