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Van der Flier outstanding for Ireland after missing out on Lions call-up

Ireland boss Andy Farrell praised the openside’s contribution against Japan.

Josh van der Flier was superb for Ireland yesterday.
Josh van der Flier was superb for Ireland yesterday.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

TASKED WITH TAKING on an all-action role in Ireland’s back row against Japan yesterday, Josh van der Flier stepped up to the plate in typically energetic fashion.

The 28-year-old was named player of the match in Ireland’s 39-31 victory in Dublin after delivering a performance that featured ball-carrying, passing, work-rate off the ball, and plenty of committed tackling.

With many of their frontline players missing yesterday, Ireland needed leaders in a tough Test against the creative Japanese and van der Flier showed the way through his relentless example.

The Leinster openside continued his rich vein of form in the ball-carrying department, often timing his runs onto the ball to perfection, accelerating at the defensive line, bringing real venom to the collisions, and fighting after the first contact.

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We get an example above as van der Flier comes around the corner from the previous breakdown and thunders onto the ball to fight over the gainline two phases before Jacob Stockdale scores out on the left.

Of course, van der Flier scored a try himself against Japan, showing plenty of fight to force his way over.

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Van der Flier benefits from the efforts of Rónan Kelleher and particularly Dave Kilcoyne here as they latch on to lend their power, but the Ireland openside’s determination – using his hand to stay off the ground as Keita Inagaki tackles him – and leg drive are key.

Van der Flier also made eight passes in this game, launching several attacks by moving the ball off Irish maul set-ups as Andy Farrell’s team looked to get at space behind the lineout.

There were also link passes out the back and a tip-in pass from van der Flier as he showed some variety in this area of the game. Below, he releases a nice offload as Ireland show promising shape on a run exit.

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Defensively, van der Flier completed 13 tackles and again showed good decision-making around his technique.

His excellent chop tackle below allows Kelleher to win a jackal penalty that yields three points for Ireland.

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He also drove his shoulder into ball-carriers slightly higher up several times, as in the case below.

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It’s not clear if van der Flier is 10 metres back after a Japan quick-tap penalty but he makes a big impact in the tackle and then shows a second effort to fight up onto his feet looking to counter-ruck.

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Van der Flier is the type of player whose performances always look even more effective on second viewings of games, with all of those little bits of secondary effort, work-rate off the ball, and contributions around the breakdown far more obvious.

Yesterday, everyone could see his impact on Ireland’s victory and he was a popular choice as player of the match.

Van der Flier has been in strong form for some time now. Within Ireland camp, there was hope that Justin Tipuric’s tour-ending injury for the Lions against Japan might have opened the door for van der Flier.

josh-van-der-flier Van der Flier passed eight times yesterday. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

It wasn’t to be as Warren Gatland instead called on Josh Navidi but van der Flier was excellent once against yesterday.

“I thought he was outstanding,” said Ireland head coach Farrell. “His carrying has been at the forefront of his top performances of late for Leinster and for us. He certainly carried unbelievably strongly again for us today.

“Some of the tackles he was putting in and the energy he had – he just kept going and going and going. I thought he was outstanding today.

“Internally, we’d always back our own players and we thought he was unlucky not to get involved with the Lions last week but he knows that there’s a window here to perform against a top-class side in Japan and he was always wanting to put his best showing out there, so he’s still in the shop window.”

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