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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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'I'm always slagging him that he's going around with his notepad'

Jamie Heaslip has been impressed by Josh van der Flier’s work ethic.

AMIDST THE DISAPPOINTMENT at Jared Payne not being shifted to fullback and Stuart McCloskey missing out altogether, the fact that Josh van der Flier held his starting place for Ireland’s clash with Italy was somewhat overlooked last week.

Josh van der Flier Van der Flier could win cap number three this weekend. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 22-year-old now appears almost certain to win cap number three against Scotland on Saturday in Dublin, and the Leinster man already looks like he has been part of the set-up for an age.

Having taken his time to build into a solid debut against England in Twickenham, van der Flier stood out more against the Italians.

His ball carrying was very effective, as he showed that useful trait of running onto the ball at speed and then adding another burst of acceleration as he neared the contact, often taking the tackler by surprise.

Van der Flier’s work rate was evident in a defensive performance that included 15 tackles, while his intelligence around the ruck was on display again. It’s easy to see how the openside has won Schmidt over so quickly.

“Nothing has surprised me with Josh,” said Ireland vice captain Jamie Heaslip of the 22-year-old. “He is an unbelievably good pro. He goes about his work very quietly and he’s a lovely guy off the field.

“I’m always slagging him that he’s going around with his notepad, taking notes all the time; he knows his job inside out. That’s what we ask people to do when they come into this squad first – to fit in first and then perform.

Josh van der Flier Van der Flier has fit in rapidly. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“Fit into the system, the way we’re playing, the moves, the calling system… and the guy hasn’t missed a step. That’s why he’s here.”

Van der Flier is in just his second season of senior rugby, but his physical readiness means that despite the inexperience both Leo Cullen at Leinster and Schmidt with Ireland have no qualms about sending him into action.

This year he has shown what he’s about really, his work ethic, his skill, his relentlessness, just being a really good pro and going about his business,” said Heaslip at Carton House today.

“Transitioning to Ireland camp really well, he was on top of his work and knew exactly what he had to do. You never have to worry about him in terms of game knowledge or hold him by the hand, anything like that.

“He’s grown in each game and it was typified in his performance against France [sic]. I thought he was one of the standout players. He’s grown each day, he’s learning each day, even though he looks about 12 years old. He’s great to have around and a pleasure to play with.”

Jamie Heaslip Heaslip feels Scotland are in a good place. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Next on the agenda for van der Flier and Heaslip is negotiating their final-round clash with the Scots in Dublin on Saturday. Vern Cotter’s men come into this meeting on the back of wins against Italy and France, and have been playing some scintillating attacking rugby.

Ireland’s most recent Six Nations experience against Scotland was last season’s title-clinching dismantling of them in Murrayfield, but the expectation is of an altogether tougher tie this time around.

You see them over the last 18 months and they just get better and better and better,” said Heaslip. “They’ve really impressed me over the last 18 months the way they’ve been going. They got their just rewards at the weekend, I think they’ve been unlucky in previous weeks and in previous competitions.

“They’re playing a very wide, expansive game and they’ve got a backline to do that and a mobile pack that allows them to do it.

“They can get around the field and they’ve got ball carriers when they need to tighten up. A very smart team, abrasive and tough opponents.”

- Reporting by Sean Farrell.

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