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'They're all lovely lads, but we don't like them': JVDF primed for overdue cut at Munster

He’s achieved a lot in his short career, so it’s about time Josh van der Flier started against Munster.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

GIVEN HOW PERMANENT A fixture Josh van der Flier has made himself for both country and province over the last two years, it’s a surprise to find there remains one important aspect of the season that he hasn’t yet fully gotten his teeth into.

He has been to Champions Cup semi-finals, Pro12 play-offs, the Six Nations and beaten the All Blacks, but he has yet to start against Munster.

The Wicklow man recounts the total of his experience against the southern province to about 10 minutes — modesty aside, it was a little closer to 40 — across two matches at Christmas 2015 and the following spring.

“Couple of tackles and hit a ruck or two,” says the flanker, when asked what he managed to contribute in his short time during the two inter-pro wins.

Of course, Van der Flier is a fast learner and you don’t exactly have to spend years at the coalface to realise the intensity of this rivalry… and how odd it must feel when it fizzles out when four provinces come together under one roof in November.

JVDF belongs to that international contingent as much as anyone now, so he’s on a collision course with room-mates and friends.

“They’re all such lovely lads but you know that we don’t like them, you know what I mean!

Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne is tackled by Leinster’s Garry Ringrose and  Josh Van der Flier Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“It will be very competitive, they’re all really good players and obviously you’d know a few of them from camp but yeah, it’s just very exciting to hopefully get to play against them because I haven’t had a proper go at them.”

It’s the game everyone wants to play in. There are obviously semi-finals and finals and stuff but other than those this is probably the biggest game of the year. We don’t like them very much and they don’t really like us so it makes for a good game. I’ll be very physical.”

Robbie Henshaw is up and running, so Leinster won’t be short of a physical presence anywhere on the field. With Munster also boasting returning Lions, it will be a task for JVDF and his fellow blue back rows to limit the impact of CJ Stander, whose tour to New Zealand further bolstered an already fearsome reputation.

“I think it’s the same as any good player, you have to get at them early and don’t give them time to get into the game,” the 24-year-old says about the task of stopping Stander.

“I suppose for him there’s no point in tackling him high, he bounces people off. For me, anyway, I’ll just try to tackle him low and try to get into him early and that’s all you can do, he’s a very good player and you try not to give him space, that’s as good as you can do really.”

That approach hasn’t failed the 24-year-old so far.

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Sean Farrell

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