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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 16 September, 2019
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'When you're in the lead it doesn't hurt as much' - JVDF had no problem with All Black physicality

All in the game.

THERE’S JUST A flicker of an eyebrow raise and a wry smile to betray Josh van der Flier’s inner thoughts.

We’ve yet to see the young professional angry. Without fail, he presents himself as an easy-going, calm and smiling presence whenever he is put forward for media duty. Even after the toughest Test of all, an angry All Black outfit.

“There’s always a bit of bite between any two teams really,” a shrugging Van der Flier replies to the query about whether the world champions had perhaps played a little over the edge, rather than right on the line of acceptable physicality.

“Sometimes it’s a sign of frustration when things aren’t going your way. I think people get frustrated, that’s the way it is.”

Van der Flier found himself in familiar territory last night, summoned off the bench midway through the first-half as another starting flanker was forced off injured.

With Sean O’Brien tasked with filling CJ Stander’s role on the blindside, the young Leinster openside again acquitted himself brilliantly against the best team in the world and was a key reason for their ‘frustration’.

Finlay Bealham, Jamie Heaslip and Josh van der Flier dejected after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

However, the Wicklow man definitely felt a difference between the impacts he sustained in Soldier Field and the brutal November Test in the Aviva last night, though he attributes the change to the mentality of a front-runner.

“I suppose when you’re in the lead it probably doesn’t hurt as much, the adrenaline’s going a bit more.

“It was very physical out there, probably similar to Chicago but we didn’t execute as well, which was probably the big difference and all in our control.”

Defeat then, a fortnight later than most expected for Ireland in this four-Test November window. The series should be viewed as a success despite the three-try defeat last night – two of them were highly contentious, after all. The next task for Joe Schmidt and a squad quickly growing in depth as they move up to fourth in the World Rugby rankings, will be to ice the sores, quell the inflammation and bounce back against the other World Cup finalists.

“It’s obviously very disappointing to go from the highs of Chicago to lose, it’s never great. But there’s positives to take, we’ve got to look forward to the Australia game and try to be better next week,” added Van der Flier.

Devin Toner dejected at the end of the game 19/11//2016 Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Better might be enough to take a win over Michael Cheika’s men. But as Devin Toner pointed out after another impressive 80-minute shift, the focus will have to be quickly sharpened for the Wallabies after having so long to plan for two big Tests against the All Blacks.

“I didn’t really see the teams because we were so focused on the Kiwis this week.

“They’ve had a gruelling tour: five big games and they’ll be looking to finish on a high next week. We want to do that as well, so to do that we know we’ll have to prepare very well, pull our socks up and get stuck into things straight away on Monday.”

With head injury concerns for Rob Kearney, CJ Stander, Robbie Henshaw and a hamstring injury for Jonathan Sexton on top of some sore bodies after a ruthless All Black performance, Joe Schmidt may have to call on more of the team that faced Canada than he had hoped to.

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Sean Farrell

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