CJ Stander believes Ireland will 'peak at the perfect time' for World Cup

The former Munster man has been impressed by Ireland’s growth under Andy Farrell.

CJ Stander after his final cap for Ireland in the 2021 Six Nations.
CJ Stander after his final cap for Ireland in the 2021 Six Nations.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL CJ Stander believes the best is yet ahead of Andy Farrell’s side as they look towards the World Cup in France next year.

Stander won 51 caps for Ireland before retiring at the end of last season in what was a shock decision when first announced.

It’s highly likely that 32-year-old Stander would still be heavily involved with Ireland if he hadn’t opted to hang his boots up, but the former Munster man has enjoyed watching Farrell’s men from back home in South Africa.

Having seen them win a Triple Crown in this year’s Six Nations, Stander is convinced there is still lots more to come from Ireland.

“Andy has always had a goal,” said Stander. “Over the last couple of years, the last few months, I can see that getting bigger and stronger every week.

“The exciting thing for me is they are not at their peak yet. I think in previous years, us as a squad, we probably peaked at the wrong stages… in a good way, look we won a Grand Slam and that’s a good thing.

“But if you look at it and want to go to a World Cup, I think they are going to peak at the perfect time.

“I’m very excited about the World Cup for Ireland, I think they are peaking at the right time. Good leaders are still there, guys coming up in the ranks, it’s exciting.”

Stander was a stalwart of Ireland’s back row right from his debut in 2016 but Farrell and co. have adapted to his retirement. Other players have stepped up in a big way in the back row and elsewhere.

“Josh van der Flier, unbelievable,” said Stander. “He is playing so well.

“A guy like Caelan Doris, you can’t stop the guy. Guys I worked with every day are coming through.

“The older guys like Johnny [Sexton] and Pete [O'Mahony] are playing unbelievable rugby at their age. They are pushing that standard every day.

“Key players are playing well. I think about a guy like Andrew Conway, James Lowe, Tadhg Furlong, they are playing very, very well and that excites me.”

cj-stander Stander has enjoyed watching the younger back rows in Munster. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Stander is similarly enthusiastic when he looks at Munster these days.

He was a talismanic figure for the province and there were obvious concerns about filling his place, but Stander has enjoyed watching younger back rows shining for the province this season.

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“John Hodnett was a guy that always worked hard when I was there and he’s a guy that’s unbelievable over the ball and carries hard,” said Stander. “He’s a hard worker, very excited for him.

“Alex Kendellen, I couldn’t believe the stuff at his age he was doing against Toulouse.

“He’s playing very well, again he works hard and he excites me a lot. He’s an all-around good player, a great player. His defence is good, his attack is good, and he gets around the park quite well.

“Gavin Coombes, the guy stepped into my jersey, took that over and nobody remembers me now. What a guy, what a player and I think he’s going to have many caps, all three of them, and not just for Munster. I truly believe they will go on for Ireland as well.

“The back row in Ireland is a very tough place to play in. There’s always big competition but those three guys, what they’re doing at their age now and the confidence they have, and the enjoyment.

“I can see the enjoyment in their faces when I’m watching them. I don’t know how they feel in the changing room, it will probably be different than when I was there but I’m really excited for them and their future.”

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Murray Kinsella

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