Monday 24 October 2016

Captain Stander playing way into an Ireland call-up

Munster's CJ Stande. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster's CJ Stande. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Irish head coach Joe Schmidt will name his Six Nations squad later this week and it will be a major surprise if the name Christiaan Johan Stander isn't on the list.

The really interesting thing will be to watch how the Ireland coach chooses to use the Munster captain in the weeks to come. Does he pitch him in from the start against Wales and if so where? Or will he hold the dynamic ball-carrier in reserve to make an impact off the bench.

Certainly, his form demands inclusion after yet another man of the match display for Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday in the 26-13 defeat of French champions Stade Francais.

The province's head coach Anthony Foley would have no hesitation in pitching him in at Test level against Wales in three weeks' time.

"None whatsoever," he said.

"He's a great man, and the player comes out of that. He's been banging on for weeks. And I think the supporters are starting to connect with him now and they're starting to see what he's about, and it's the grit and the hard work. It's not just the big carries.

"He's good out on the pitch. Him being captain this year obviously wasn't something that we foresaw. It wasn't a plan until Peter's (O'Mahony) knee went, so we needed to figure out who was the man to lead because this group would be used to big, physical, demanding men that lead and I think CJ is getting there, and he's going to be a great leader."

No one appears to have borne the burden of Munster's recent struggles more than Stander himself and the relief was palpable on the skipper's face.

He must also draw satisfaction from the fact that he could not be doing more to put his name in the shake-up for international honours.

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