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JVDF takes disappointment on the chin as he pushes extra hard for starting place in Rome

There is huge competition in the back row, and the Leinster man is hoping to have a big impact on Saturday.

JOSH VAN DER Flier wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t disappointed to find himself on the bench at Murrayfield, but he’s the type of player that takes it on the chin and vows to work harder this week.

Josh van der Flier In the mood: van der Flier at Carton House yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After a man of the match performance in the November Test victory over Australia, the 23-year-old may have felt hard done by to be bumped behind Sean O’Brien for the Six Nations opener but that’s not in his character.

He was hardly pleased to fall down the pecking order, but at the same time van der Flier was grateful to be involved in some capacity and will use the learnings to push for inclusion for Saturday’s clash in Rome.

“When you’re on the bench you always want to be in that starting position I suppose,” he said at Carton House yesterday.

“Coming off the bench you want to prove why you’re there and want to fight for that starting place as well. To be honest I was obviously very happy to be involved with the quality of back rows — the likes of Jack Conan and Tommy O’Donnell playing so well, and Dan Leavy — and a part of me was just happy to be there but also a part of me was disappointed not to be starting so it’s kind of a bit of both I suppose.

“You just have to concentrate on trying to fit in and slot in with the rest of the team [when you come on]. Try and have a bit of an impact. Obviously it had been a tough game up until that stage and a few of the lads were tired so you just have to try and bring the energy.

“It’s probably a lot more enjoyable than coming on when you’re 40 points up or something. It’s a bit more enjoyable coming into a tight game, a bit more tense but it was quite disappointing though.”

Josh van der Flier Van der Flier during Monday's squad session at Carton House. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The dust has now settled on that particular game and Ireland will have identified the areas of improvement ahead of the rest of the campaign in the early stages of the week.

All the focus has now turned to Saturday’s game against Italy and the players have spoken about a desire to right the wrongs and get their Championship back on track. This weekend provides the perfect opportunity.

However, there’s also the Conor O’Shea factor.

The Italians are a work in progress — and there is much to do — but the Limerick native has done a fine job since assuming the reins last year.

This is his first Six Nations as a coach and after his side fell away at home to Wales in the opening week, this fixture will be of added significance for O’Shea.

“He’s going to know all the Irish players as well as anyone and he’s got good experience as a coach,” van der Flier added.

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“He comes up with some smart plays and he seems to be a really good coach so it’s going to be exciting to see how well they play under him. It’ll definitely be a challenge.

“When they beat South Africa, they played for the full 80 minutes so I think Wales did well to break them down. It was a very physical game and they kept coming at them, coming at them and I think that’s what we’re going to have to do.

“We might not break them down in 80 minutes, it might be a very tight game. It’s very hard to know what way the game is going to go but we just have to bring that physicality as well as we can.”

And what about Ireland? All the pressure will be on them and there will be an added emphasis to go out and put Italy to the sword and claim a bonus point.

Josh Van der Flier The flanker came on for the last 14 minutes last weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Scotland was obviously very disappointing but we just need to look at what we control and what we change coming into the Italy game,” the Leinster flanker said.

“We have to park that disappointment and just learn from the small details we didn’t get right. Obviously it has to be said that Scotland played very, very well and they were probably deserving of their win on the day.

“We just have to learn what we can and move onto Italy. We know what we’re capable of.”

A player known for his unwavering work rate both in games and training, van der Flier says he’ll be looking to bring energy to everything he does this week as he pushes for a starting place.

“I just have to concentrate on my game. Joe will pick the best team so I’ve no doubt about that. I just have to train as well as I can and hopefully hopefully stay involved.

“I thought I could have brought a bit more off the bench. I thought I could have brought a bit more energy. We were in the lead when I came on and lost so it’s kind of, I don’t know if that was me personally but you always kind of look at it that way.

“If I’m on the bench again or in training this week, just trying to bring as much energy as I can and try and bring a bit more intensity.”

Maybe that’s what Ireland need. A bit more JVDF energy and intensity.

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