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Van der Flier takes inspiration from Nacewa's injury mindset

The Leinster flanker says Nacewa’s attitude around setbacks and rehab opened his eyes.

AS IF JOSH van der Flier’s comeback performance against Munster wasn’t impressive enough, the Leinster flanker’s tackle stats for a remarkable 77-minute shift were updated to 25 post-match. 

Leo Cullen described van der Flier’s first game back from injury in three months as ‘incredible’ and certainly the 26-year-old is now primed to start in Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 final against Glasgow Warriors.

Josh van der Flier presents the ball Van der Flier was outstanding against Munster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Although he was initially ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing groin surgery in February, van der Flier was thrown back into the Leinster back row last weekend, having once again come back fitter and stronger from an injury setback.

Known for his work-rate and diligence, the Wicklow native explained that he has taken inspiration from Isa Nacewa, who despite retiring and leaving the club last year, still has a big influence on the Leinster dressing room. 

“Yeah, his attitude towards training, towards everything, he was always positive,” van der Flier says of the former Leinster captain. “It was just his mindset and his mental strength was always absolutely incredible and he was mentioned this week, he was mentioned last week in the meetings. Everyone still talks about him. ‘What would Isa say? Isa would say this, Isa would say that.’ He has been an incredible influence on the club and still is.

“His mindset around injury definitely inspired me, especially when I hurt my knee [last year]. I had injuries before and kind of just ticked away, get the rehab done and get home, that kind of thing. But his whole mindset, he was big into positivity and the power of being positive about things.

“It helps the healing if you’re positive and not getting down on yourself. He’s a big inspiration that way and then obviously with the injuries it’s helpful to have the likes of Jordi Murphy, I had a good chat with him, Ed Byrne, Tom Daly.

“Those lads who had been through tough injuries and have a really good mindset around rehab. They’ve definitely helped a lot and then the medical staff have been brilliant as well.”

The former Wesley man has, unfortunately, suffered a number of setbacks in recent times, but his attitude has always been the same: work hard and look for that edge.

“I’ve always tried to be quite diligent, try and get the edge in different ways,” he continues.

“Looking back, even a couple of years ago, there are some things that were just silly I was doing. Maybe eating the wrong stuff or trying to do too much gym close to a game. Just some things I wouldn’t do now and I’m sure in a year, there will be something that I’ll think I was really silly doing that, I could have got a bit more of an edge if I was doing something different.

“I’ve learnt everything from the lads I’ve played with. I took a huge amount from Kevin McLaughlin. When I came into Leinster, he had a good few things, he had shoulders that would kind of get at him and a few injuries that would niggle away at him, and himself and Jamie Heaslip would always be in the gym rehabbing away. and making sure their body was right for the weekend. I took a lot of inspiration from that, I wanted to be like them. Just different people, Isa like I said, and you just pick up things here and there.”

Josh van der Flier The flanker has worked hard to get back fit. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Even still, van der Flier admitted he was nervous ahead of his comeback game at the RDS last weekend, but additional work with Leinster’s contact skills coach Hugh Hogan helped ensure he was battle-ready.

“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” the Ireland international adds. |I was more nervous than I would normally be. That’s having not played in a few weeks.

“I was worried would I have the fitness to get through. You are always thinking about those things. I managed to do everything I could. I was working with Hugh Hogan doing some skills, full-on tackles, poaches.

We basically did every scenario you can come across in a game really and it all went really well. Then, coming into this, I was nervous. You never know how it’s going to go.

“But, I had done everything in the week leading up to it, so I didn’t really have any reason to be nervous even though you are in the first game back, just to see how you get on.”

Now, after missing last year’s run-in through injury, van der Flier is back to boost Leinster’s bid for back-to-back Pro14 titles this weekend.

“I felt very grateful to be in bonus territory, I suppose, is probably what I was thinking.

“If it wasn’t for the work of the medical team, I shouldn’t be here on the pitch really. Bonus territory, I guess, is how I feel about it.”

Gavan Casey is joined by Ryan Bailey and Andy Dunne to look ahead to Saturday’s Pro14 final, look at whether Joey Carbery’s move has paid off and Jack Conan talks about how his body is holding up.:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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