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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 19 June, 2019
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Outstanding Van der Flier plays as if he's never been away

The Leinster openside was simply colossal in a man-of-the-match performance against Munster.

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

JOSH VAN DER Flier has done it before so we shouldn’t really be surprised but you could only watch on in awe as the Leinster flanker produced an utterly relentless and hugely influential performance on his return from injury this afternoon.

In what was his first appearance since February, van der Flier played as if he was never away in a typically industrious shift before he received a standing ovation from a sold-out RDS upon his withdrawal in the 77th minute.

Josh van der Flier presents the ball JVDF was immense for Leinster today. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

That he again defied an initial prognosis on his groin injury to get back for this game was impressive, but to then slot seamlessly back into the Leinster back row and have such a positive impact on an incredibly physical contest is quite staggering. 

Deservedly named man of the match, the stats — eight carries, 16 tackles and three turnovers won — provide a snapshot of van der Flier’s influence on the game, yet barely scratch the surface of his all-round contribution. 

In addition, van der Flier’s work-ethic, both in defence and to support rucks, is peerless, while the 26-year-old often set the tone for Leinster with his aggressive linespeed putting Munster’s ball-carriers under constant pressure. 

“He was incredible, wasn’t he?” Cullen said post-match. “Considering he got injured two years in a row against France, one he does his ACL and then the other one he does his groin. I thought he was going to be gone for the rest of the season so to get himself back and in such good shape, it’s a credit to him.

“As I said, in terms of a role model for other players to look to and how you manage yourself, he does an amazing job. I’m delighted to see him go so well today.”

Having previously hit the ground running after a lengthy lay-off, notably starring in Ireland’s win over the All Blacks last November having just come back from that serious knee injury, van der Flier’s mindset and attitude is admirable.

The Wicklow native leaves no stone unturned during his rehabilitation, constantly working with the Leinster medical team to discover an additional edge that will help get him back on the pitch as quickly as possible. 

And his return, as evidenced today, is a major fillip for Leinster, particularly in the absence of Dan Leavy, as van der Flier brings so much dynamism to Cullen’s back row, with captain Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan also producing towering shifts against Munster.

Against Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Arno Botha, Leinster edged the battle at the breakdown and consistently won turnover ball to stymie the visitors who, although enjoying a significant share of the possession, were far too one-dimensional in attack. 

Van der Flier, back fit and firing, certainly did his World Cup chances no harm with this showing on the big stage, and he is now primed to start Leinster’s Pro14 final against Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park next weekend.

Josh van der Flier receives the man of the match medal from Rory Sheridan The flanker was man of the match. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The lungs were tested a good bit but it feels really good to be back,” the seven smiled afterwards. 

“I suppose I’ve had a lot of help from different people to get back. I remember Isa [Nacewa] last year, he was struggling with a few injuries towards the end of the season and I had a good chat about that with him.

“He’d have an injury and everyone would know it was a six-week injury and he would be like ‘I’m playing in two weeks.’

“Everyone knows he’s not going to be playing in two weeks but that was just his attitude. I just tried to have a positive attitude and Fearghal Kerin [Leinster rehabilitation physio] again doing my rehab, he seems to do a good job of getting me back early and then the rest of the medical team, they have to be the best in the world, if not one of the best in the world.

“They’re absolutely brilliant and everything just progressed really well. I think I was quite fortunate. I had targets for every day, every session and worked my way quite quickly through it and got back playing. I’m very thankful to the medical team.”

As are Leinster, but now Cullen has a big decision next week.

SOB or JVDF?

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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