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Van der Flier continues to shine in Leinster's all-action back row

The flanker had a typically productive outing against Montpellier on Sunday.

Van der Flier crossed for two tries against Montpellier.
Van der Flier crossed for two tries against Montpellier.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Jan 18th 2022, 8:47 AM

THE STATS PAINT a good picture of the impressive amount of work Josh van der Flier got through in his 67 minutes of action against Montpellier on Sunday.

With two tries, 15 tackles, eight defenders beaten and 104 metres made, it was another highly productive outing for the flanker, who has grown into one of the most consistent performers in a squad packed full of internationals.

At 28, Van der Flier is now a senior player at the province but the appetite for improvement which made him such an exciting prospect when he first broke into the team has never diminished.

It’s been well documented that last season he put an increased focus on improving his ball-carrying, and his form around the most recent international window saw him singled out for praise by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. 

On Sunday he showed himself as a surprise speedster, producing an impressive turn of pace in dotting down two second half tries, the first of which saw him run a smart support line off Jack Conan, before crossing again after anticipating and taking full advantage of an overthrown Montpellier lineout.

“We’d done a lot of research on what they might bring,” Van der Flier explains.

James Tracy actually said to me a couple of days ago that it’s a play they like to do, Dan Sheehan mentioned it – said to watch the overthrow – and I saw from their No 12′s body-language that it might go over, so I suppose it was good cueing up from those guys and good to take the opportunity.

“I don’t get in the space too often, it was good. Very pleasing, it’s a bit of a blur but nice to look back on. It was good of Jack (Conan), I’ve been trying to work on those support lines. You have to get a bit lucky with them as well, that’s the way it goes. It’s not something I’ve been traditionally good at, but it was pleasing to get one.”

Leinster’s record-breaking European win will do little to ease the frustration that has been brewing at the province ever since the decision to award Montpellier a 28-0 bonus-win for the cancelled round two meeting between the sides, yet it will have loosened out a few muscles and boosted confidence levels ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bath.

marco-tauleigne-and-josh-van-der-flier Van der Flier takes on Montpellier’s Marco Tauleigne. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Everything the province are working on now is geared towards the tougher tests that lie further down the line, particularly given the fact Leinster are set to progress to the knock-out stages with a lower seeding than Cullen and Co would have liked.  

That’s why they started with such intent against Montpellier, hitting the bonus point mark with less than 25 minutes played. Be sure they will look to bring the same ruthless edge at the Rec.

“We spoke about it before the game, going out and attacking at every opportunity,” Van der Flier continues.

“You saw it with the quick-taps, trying to score as many points as we can. Especially with the way we went 28-0 in the last Montpellier game, it doesn’t put us in the best position so we knew we had to get as much points as we can. Hopefully this week goes well and every point will be important for placings and that sort of thing.”

Van der Flier – who played down the dangerous hit which saw Masivesi Dakuwaqa red carded in the second half – wasn’t aware Leinster had achieved a record European win until being informed during his post-match media duties, which makes the home side’s desire to tack on a late flurry of points all the more impressive. 

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And a good day out for Leinster also represented a good day for Andy Farrell, who saw his favoured back row combination from the November internationals hit their stride again after a lengthy wait for some action.

Jack Conan also crossed for two tries on his first apperance since those November games, while Caelan Doris enjoyed a productive 80 minutes at blindside. 

“They’re great, we’ve got a good balance. We’ve had a good amount of involvements each and that’s important,” Van der Flier says.

Neither Caelan, Jack or any of the back-rows in Leinster, there’s no selfish players there. There’s times when someone has to be hitting the rucks, someone has to be keeping the space out wide and I think the lads are good that if someone is tired, someone else can do a bit of work. They’re great, world class players. It’s a privilege to play in the back-row with them

“Then you’ve Rhys (Ruddock) and Max Deegan coming on, you’ve Will Connors to come back, Scott Penny playing unbelievable and Josh Murphy was incredible today so there’s a lot of very good back-rows around.

“That’s part of it as well, being pushed along by all the competition there is every day in training.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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