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Friday 9 December 2016

Van Der Flier can add to Schmidt's options

Flanker's continues to showcase his potential

Leinster’s Josh Van Der Flier claims a lineout in last Friday’s Guinness PRO12 game against Ulster in the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge
Leinster’s Josh Van Der Flier claims a lineout in last Friday’s Guinness PRO12 game against Ulster in the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge
Leinster’s Eoin Reddan is tackled by Ulster’s Paddy Jackson

Sometimes it is best left for those outside the tent to say it.

Former Ireland defence coach Les Kiss, now firmly in place as Ulster's Director of Rugby, has an up close and personal idea of how Joe Schmidt thinks and what he looks for in potential Ireland internationals.

Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier is the latest 'great hope' of Irish rugby.

While the wider public is just beginning to discover his talent, Kiss has been a long-time admirer and, on Friday, a recent casualty of his thunderous impact.

The 22 year-old was the obvious man of the match on a field littered with internationals.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised at all," said Kiss. "Josh has been a fantastic player through the ages for a number of years and a lot of people have their eyes on him.

Damage

"He caused us damage a couple of times. It would have been nice to not have him there because we would have got more momentum we would have liked (that) for sure."

The ex-Wesley College openside is pure perpetual motion.

His work-rate is right up there. He made 20 tackles on Friday night, ten carries, hit - not just attended - 24 rucks, took one lineout and forced two turnovers, one on the floor, another keeping a player upright long enough for a maul-into-scrum.

"He's a cracking young player," said Kiss. "He's fast. He's got great leg drive and he's a brave character too. He has that instinct to put his head where he has to."

Is it too much, too soon to launch Van der Flier onto the international stage?

"If you're good enough, you're old enough," stated Kiss.

"It is nice to see that coming through in terms of the Irish system."

Prop Jack McGrath, a mean machine himself, compares Van der Flier to a man who has just left the Leinster building.

"He is like a young Shane Jennings. He has such an engine and he brings so much energy to the back-row.

"His tackle count out there, just brings energy to guys. When he is running around chopping big guys and making his tackles, it makes it so much easier for everyone else.

"They are the type of guys that you want on your team. They are not doing anything flash they are just doing their job. He is always asking questions, always wanting to learn."

The Ireland international was not interested in commenting on recent claims that he is about to extend his contract by two years.

He was more concerned with how Leinster can continue to grow as their European hopes have all but vanished.

"It is always tough," he stated. "You think about yourself and you think about your team-mates and you think about the fans when you are losing.

"Because it is pretty emotional for everyone, even your family. They see how down you are. Everyone has each other's back in our team.

"When something goes wrong I think it galvanises us as a squad. They are pretty tough days but before Leinster had won anything there was a lot of dark days and look how strong they became from it.

"We are going through maybe a little bit of a dark patch but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"We are coming out of the back of it now. It is going to be positive from here. Everyone can feel it and we are bubbling nicely."

Golden

The reality is the Champions Cup is the golden stick for this season; the PRO12 the golden carrot.

In this regard, there should be more up-to-date information about injuries to Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath and Noel Reid.

The latter was escorted from the pitch with what looked like a nasty ankle problem and was scheduled for an X-Ray and a scan.

Scrum-half McGrath had to cope with the weight of Nick Williams coming down on his knee.

It was difficult to detect what coach Leo Cullen called the "bang" Sexton took before he was replaced with the game still in the balance.

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