Sunday 23 October 2016

Josh doesn't want this year to end

Young Player of the Year wants a trophy to cap his perfect season

Josh van der Flier. Pic: Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier. Pic: Sportsfile
Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier at the Zurich IRUPA Rugby Player Awards Photo: Sportsfile

Josh van der Flier was in flying form at the IRUPA Awards on Wednesday night.

You would be too if you had just been voted Player's Young Player of the Year by your peers.

"I'm a bit speechless in a way," he smiled. "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 (Ringrose) and Stu (McCloskey), they've been unbelievable all season."

It has been a strange and wonderful season for Van der Flier.

He has eaten up the game-time and had provincial and international recognition well beyond what could reasonably have been expected.

While he has been chopping down ball-carriers with the persistence of a lumberjack, the other pieces of the puzzle have not always fallen into place for the province.

Leinster have lost 11 times this season, five of those coming in The Champions Cup, six in the League they plan to close out for the second time in three seasons.


There is something of the outer-body experience for the openside in the way he drove on from rookie professional to Ireland international in the blink of an eye.

Last season, he made his Leinster debut against Zebre in October of 2014 for the first of two starts in a total of five appearances.

This season, there have been 13 starts, three of them coming in The Champions Cup, out of 18 caps.

These were followed by two Ireland caps, making his debut against England at Twickenham and following up at home to Italy for back-to-back 80 minutes.

"Yeah, it's been an unbelievable season really. It's been a bit of a whirlwind, I don't really want it to end.

"I 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."

If fortune favours the brave, it falls at the feet of the well-prepared and fully committed.

The man is a machine when it comes to doing everything on and off the field to put himself in the right physical and mental shape.

As Seán O'Brien creeps closer to full-fitness from his hamstring trouble, Van der Flier will aim to double the pressure on coach Leo Cullen to stay with the 23-year-old.

That begins at home to Treviso as Leinster look for the points that would guarantee a return to The RDS for the semi-finals.

"Yeah, that's the focus now," he said. "We need a good win against Treviso and our full focus is on that for the rest of the week."

The anticipation of a fiery physical encounter has been warmed up by the Italian job Treviso did on Connacht last week.

Leinster are right to be wary.

"I wouldn't say it's straightforward at all," stated Van der Flier. "Look at the Connacht game last week - they played really good, opportunist rugby really.

"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.

"I think they're pretty good. Their backs are pretty decent and their forwards are very solid, very physical. They'll be well up for it."

The sight of Jayden Hayward's long distance winning kick sailing through at Stadio Monigo last week was a warning for all those who flirt with what is legal in and around the breakdown.

"Yeah, it's massive for our discipline this weekend because if you give away penalties anywhere inside the half, it looks like he'll absolutely nail them, and we saw that in the Connacht game."

For all of that, it would come as the shock of the season were Leinster not to take four points out of the Italians.

The Blues have lost to Treviso just once and that came at Stadio Monigo back in 2010.


Their hometown dominance over the visitors will surely continue. The decision of the broadcasters to forego the rights to televise this contest speaks volumes for the level of expectations for an upset.

Their mission is to pick up the five points on offer to make sure of a home semi-final and, in tandem, find a thread of form to recover the confidence sucked out of them by Ulster last week. This time, there is everything up for grabs as Treviso hold onto a one-point lead over Zebre in their race for Champions Cup qualification.

They won't make it easy and Leinster won't take it easy on them.

It's been an unbelievable season really. It's been a bit of a whirlwind.

Leinster v Treviso, The RDS (tomorrow, KO3.0)

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