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Dublin: 0°C Friday 16 April 2021

'A classic CJ game really... it's great to see him out there smashing things'

The Munster man was a relentless presence for Ireland as they got over the line against Scotland.

HIS REPOSITIONING TO the blindside of the scrum didn’t last too long, with debutant Caelan Doris’ unfortunate concussion meaning CJ Stander was back in his familiar number eight slot within five minutes of Ireland’s win over Scotland starting.

The 29-year-old proceeded to deliver the kind of all-action display that means he now boasts 39 caps for Ireland, as well as one Test appearance for the Lions in 2017.

Stander is well used to being written off and undervalued but you sense that it all just fuels the Munster man.

cj-stander-makes-a-break-away-from-blair-kinghorn Stander was a crucial figure for Ireland on Saturday. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

He was at his belligerent best against the Scots in Dublin, winning two turnover penalties at crucial times. The first came after Sam Johnson had intercepted Conor Murray’s pass and Ireland were firmly in scramble mode. Stander raced back to jackal and win the penalty, Josh van der Flier anchoring him into place.

The second came in the 78th minute as Scotland pounded Ireland’s tryline in search of an equalising score. This time, James Ryan made a superb chop tackle on Hamish Watson to open the door for Stander, who clamped over the ball as Robbie Henshaw also muscled in over the tackle. 

Andy Farrell’s passionate celebrations of both Stander turnovers up in the coaches’ box said it all. These were game-defining contributions.

Away from the breakdown, Stander was busy defensively too, completing 18 tackles, many of them dominant shots on Scottish ball-carriers. He made a big linebreak for Ireland in attack after a suspect Iain Henderson turnover, while Stander made 14 carries in total.

He did well as the back of one second-half tricky scrum, managing not to get choke tackled, while Stander’s work-rate around the pitch off the ball was exemplary for the entire 80 minutes.

“He had a massive game, a classic CJ game really,” said Ireland hooker Rob Herring after their 19-12 win.

“He made loads of tackles and carries and two crucial turnovers. I’m delighted for him, he’s a big guy, a big character in the squad and it’s great to see him out there smashing things.”

Ireland boss Andy Farrell was in agreement.

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“I thought he was great,” said Farrell.

“I think CJ’s performance just epitomised what the whole pack was doing for one another.”

cj-stander-with-his-daughter-everli-and-wife-jean-marie-after-the-game Stander with his daughter, Everli, and wife, Jean-Marié, after the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Ireland head coach went on to name-check Josh van der Flier, Henderson, Herring, and Tadhg Furlong as he praised “the fight that’s throughout the pack” but it’s likely that Ireland’s forwards will be honest with themselves in their review of this win.

Scotland won two scrum penalties and completely negated Ireland’s attacking maul, which was lethargic. Add in some passive tackling early in the game and moments of Scotland dominance in tackles close to the ruck, and this Irish pack has much to work on.

Ireland’s actual throwing and jumping at the lineout was secure, however, as they won all but one of their own throws. That lost throw was a frustrating one as Ireland appeared to be set up for an inventive power play off a four-man lineout, with Furlong in midfield.

“I was happy enough,” said hooker Herring of the lineout. “We have really good callers. Everyone’s drill was spot on and when you have that combination, it makes it easy for the thrower.

“The calls from Hendo made the job easy and took a lot of pressure off. Obviously, delighted with the way it went but I think we can still get a little more from the maul.

“We need to start threatening a bit more with that, but that’ll come and we’ll look at it during the week and see where we are with that.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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