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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018

Quick-healing Van der Flier eyeing return to Ireland fold for England showdown

The openside flanker says he wasn’t far off making the Leinster squad this week.

Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier.
Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

HE MAY BE sidelined at the moment but Josh van der Flier feels like he’s dodged a bullet.

The openside flanker hurt his shoulder against Edinburgh a fortnight ago and it was initially feared that the AC injury would keep him out of action for eight weeks and consequently, the rest of this year’s Six Nations.

However, the 23-year-old is already nearing the end of his road to recovery and believes he wasn’t far off making Leinster’s squad for Saturday night’s game against the Scarlets in the RDS.

With the Pro12 taking a three-week break after this upcoming round of fixtures, it means the next Leinster game Van der Flier can target is the visit of Cardiff Blues on 25 March.

But with a bit of luck, and some hard work on the training ground, Van der Flier is hoping he can add to his seven international caps in Ireland’s Six Nations showdown with England one week previous to that, even though he wasn’t named in Joe Schmidt’s 36-man training squad yesterday.

“I was pushing hard to get back for this week but unfortunately it’s probably a bit late now,” Van der Flier says

I could be good next week. It could be a couple of weeks. It just depends how I progress. I have markers to hit.

“It feels really, really good, yeah. I know Jamie [Heaslip] did this a couple of years ago and he was back in three weeks, but I know he’s a bit of a freak [for recovery].

“At the moment I’m just aiming for Cardiff because I wouldn’t have had any game time if I was to come back in [to Ireland].

“I’ll try get back fit as soon as I can and then you never know, I’m sure people have done it before [got back in the Ireland team like this] but we’ll see how it goes.”

Van der Flier featured as a substitute in Ireland’s opening Six Nations fixtures against Scotland and Italy, only to suffer the injury against Edinburgh on a break week.

In the days following the game, Van der Flier was sure he had done himself serious harm so he can’t help but feel relieved he isn’t out of action for longer.

“Straight after the injury I could barely move, it was absolute agony. And then it just settled down really, really quickly over a couple of days.

“If they had wanted to do surgery on it, if it had been that bad, then it would have been the end of the season.”

Ireland’s Josh Van der Flier Josh van der Flier in action against Scotland. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The former Wesley College student admits frustration at his lack of game-time this spring, especially on the back of such a prominent November Test series where he was a first-half replacement in the games against New Zealand, before playing 80 minutes in the Australia victory.

It’s a frustrating position to be in, yet he knows that being selected as the next man in is quite a compliment in such a competitive area of the field.

“Coming on from how well November went, there was a small bit of disappointment at not being involved [from the start], but then it was great to be involved when you look at the kind of players on the fringes — like Dan Leavy, Jack Conan, Peter O’Mahony, who I know had an injury.

It’s a bit of both; you’re gutted not to be starting, but you look at all the lads behind you and you’re delighted to be on the bench in that way.

“When you’re picked in the Ireland squad you’re delighted to be there, but then you’re kind of not just happy with being there, you want to play. It depends which way you look at it. It depends on the mood I’m in!”

Isa Nacewa (left), Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy were in the RDS to reveal details of the #FuelThe4th fan experience. Life Style Sports is encouraging Leinster Rugby fans to ignite the club’s bid for European glory by asking them to post messages of support to their favourite player using #FuelThe4th. The winner with the most inspirational social post will watch Leinster take on Wasps in their own bespoke premium level box. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Joe Schmidt, as he is wont to do, has given Van der Flier some areas to work on but at the moment the openside flanker knows he can only sit back and watch as his fellow back rowers continue to excel.

A stint on the sidelines also affords Van der Flier some valuable time to reflect, assess and clear up some minor injury issues.

“This time two or three years ago I was trying to get in the UCD team and there was a lot of competition, so it is pretty crazy to kind of take a look back and see that I’m talking about Irish selection and that kind of thing. It’s pretty cool.

“There are things you can do [when you're injured] that you can’t do while you’re playing.

“There are a couple of niggly injuries, something that’s quite sore throughout the season and you get a chance to rest that or a chance to do an extra bit of pre-hab type stuff, get a bit of gym training in as well.”

A rare weekend off also afforded van der Flier the opportunity to watch Ireland’s Six Nations Test against France from the comfort of his sofa six days ago, after seeing Leinster secure an impressive away win at the Dragons the night before.

Taking some time out has done him no harm, but Van der Flier knows the sooner he can put his hand up for selection, the better.

Getting too comfortable is the last thing he wants to do right now.

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Alan Waldron

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