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Van der Flier credits Stander influence after being named Young Player of the Year

The Leinster openside flanker scooped the award at the IRUPA dinner on Wednesday night.

JOSH VAN DER Flier has credited the influence of CJ Stander on him after the Leinster openside flanker was named Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year at the IRUPA awards on Wednesday night.

CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier Stander and van der Flier started together against England and Italy this year. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Van der Flier and Stander both made their Ireland debuts during this year’s Six Nations, although the Munster man started all five games as the Leinster back row earned two starts.

23-year-old van der Flier has been superb for his province all season and beat off the competition of Leinster teammate Garry Ringrose and Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey for his award in Dublin earlier this week.

“Obviously I’m delighted, it’s such a great award to win but the greatest honour is to be selected alongside such great players as Garry and Stu. They’ve been unbelievable all season,” said van der Flier. ”I’m a bit speechless in a way.

It’s been an unbelievable season really. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, I don’t really want it to end. I’ve just enjoyed every single minute of it really and I just want it to keep going. I’ve been very fortunate to get the chances I have.”

While Stander – winner of the Players’ Player of the Year prize – is a relatively inexperienced international himself, he was an important influence on van der Flier during the Six Nations.

“CJ has been absolutely unbelievable all season. He deserves all he gets and has been really good for me all during the Six Nations, helping me out even though he only made his debut a few weeks before me,” said van der Flier. “He’s a really good lad.

“His Irish cap has been coming for a while. It was kind of expected, really, that he would get into the international arena and he’s been unbelievable.

“Obviously CJ is captain of Munster and on the pitch with Ireland he is very vocal, especially in the defensive line which is probably where you need it the most.

CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier Stander has been an important influence on van der Flier. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“What I’ve found he’s especially good at is putting his arm around you and making sure you’re relaxed, telling you to calm down or whatever if it’s needed. He’s very personal, really.”

While van der Flier’s superb season was recognised by his fellow professionals with the IRUPA award, he remains intent on finishing the campaign on another new high.

Leinster face Treviso tomorrow at the RDS [KO 3pm] hopeful of securing a home Guinness Pro12 semi-final. After a chastening 30-6 defeat to Ulster last weekend, van der Flier and his teammates know they need a strong response against the Italians, who are coming off a win against Connacht.

We need a good win against Treviso and our full focus is on that,” said the former Wesley College man.

“I wouldn’t say it’s straightforward at all; look at the Connacht game last week – they play really good, opportunistic rugby. They’re really physical up front and you can’t give them chances. If you lose the ball they’ll capitalise on that because they’re good in open play.

“Their backs are pretty decent and their forwards are very solid, very physical. They’ll be well up for it.”

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Murray Kinsella

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