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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 20 September, 2019

JVDF grew up watching the All Blacks, but had no fear in Soldier Field

“You can’t just ‘try and live with them’ you’ve got to go out and get them, stop them playing.”

Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Sean Farrell reports from Chicago

LIKE  MOST YOUNG rugby fans in this part of the world, seeing New Zealand play rugby made an impression on the young Josh van der Flier.

Yesterday, he made them sit up and take notice of him.

The Wicklow man missed out on a starting berth against the world champions in Soldier Field yesterday. But in the perfect mould of the ideal Joe Schmidt replacement, he sprung off the bench when Jordi Murphy went down injured, knew his role to a tee and made his presence felt.

In his 55 minutes on the field, Van der Flier made 12 tackles, a figure only bested over the 80 minutes by CJ Stander (13).

It was a performance his more recent Kiwi inspirations would have been proud — the obvious archetypal seven Richie McCaw and his successor Sam Cane who be comprehensively out-played in Chicago.

However, opensides were not always the area of the field the Leinster flanker was training his eyes on.

“I used to play scrum-half, so the likes of (Byron) Kelleher,” comes the surprise answer to a query about his favourite All Black from his formative years.

“I would have watched when I was younger. They’re always a great team to watch and they’ve probably been the best team in the world for a good while now.”

Just not good enough to reel Ireland in from a 30 – 8 advantage. While many outside the camp were doubting though, Van der Flier was completely focused on bringing the best out of himself and everyone in the green jersey..

We always knew that if we perform to our best, we’d get the win.

“Obviously a very special day. A long time coming – 100 and something odd years – we’re very happy with the win.”

A key component of Ireland’s performance was a suffocating defensive effort. Even though Andy Farrell’s shape was prised apart by Waisake Naholo early on, Ireland were relentless in chasing down their opponents when they didn’t have the ball and confidence from that element was absorbed in attack.

“He loves us giving a bit of energy in defence,” the 23-year-old says of Farrell before lapsing into habit and lamenting the 29 points conceded.

Josh van der Flier celebrates winning Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“He’s been absolutely brilliant. It’s all about putting pressure on the opposition and trying to impose our game from defence rather than just… you can’t just ‘try and live with them’ you’ve got to go out and get them, stop them playing. That was the gameplan and it worked quite well.

“We wanted to keep coming at them. You would have seen in the Rugby Championship, if you (come up) soft they’ll just tear you apart and score 50 points no bother.

“We just knew we had to keep putting pressure on them, keep trying to play our game, hold onto the ball and that was pretty much the gameplan.”

Young Irish rugby fans no longer have to look to the other side of the world for exemplary rugby. It’s on their doorstep.

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Sean Farrell

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