herald

Friday 19 April 2019

Van the man to handle wasps' sting

Ireland flanker will be eager to help shut down Welsh dangerman Young

KEY ROLE: Josh van der Flier pictured at the Leinster press conference at UCD. Photo: Sportsfile
KEY ROLE: Josh van der Flier pictured at the Leinster press conference at UCD. Photo: Sportsfile

Nepotism. That old chestnut where the dad picks the son and tongues start wagging about the unfairness of it all.

Thomas Young has had to deal with that.

For whatever reason, in 2014, the flanker ended his association with Cardiff Blues.

Initially, he signed with Gloucester, making just three appearances off the bench in a short-term stay.

There were those that thought he wasn't good enough. His father wasn't one of them.

Wasps coach Dai Young took his time in coming to the conclusion that his son could be just what Wasps needed.

In fact, at the time, the paternal support was invaluable in triggering a response that eventually led to international rugby.

There can be no greater motivation than to prove someone else wrong by proving your father right.

Capable

"He thought I was capable of playing at this level and I'm thankful for that,"

"It's down to him that I've got to where I am," said Young, about the decision that changed his working life.

TOUGH OPPONENT: Thomas Young of Wasps (left) in action against Connacht’s Sean O’Brien at the Sportsground
TOUGH OPPONENT: Thomas Young of Wasps (left) in action against Connacht’s Sean O’Brien at the Sportsground

"Coming here, I knew I would have to really prove myself.

"I knew people were bound to think, 'He's only signing him because he's his son'.

"I had to show I was able to play and I think I've done that," he said.

In 2017, Young was nominated for European player of the Year.

Later that summer, he played twice for Wales against Tonga and Samoa, failing to add to the total of two to the bewilderment of many in Wales.

Since then Young, now 26, has had to make-do with making a difference in the Gallagher Premiership.

Stuart Lancaster
Stuart Lancaster

"Every time I train and play, I want to make sure I do well because in my head I've still got points to prove.

"I like to think that, because of what I've done, people now think, 'He's not a bad player, he deserves to be here'.

"But I still get the banter from within the squad; guys saying, 'Come on then, what's the team? Did you pick it last night?"

Wasps have been average this season, going better in the League than in Europe.

However, Young has been listed in the Wales squad for the Six Nations with the likes of Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric.

He will be determined to put his best foot forward against Leinster at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

It is just one of the many problems Josh van der Flier will have to deal with in the final round of the Champions Cup.

"He's a very good player, good at the breakdown, gets a lot of turnovers and is real energetic around the park," said the Leinster flanker.

"I've played against him a couple of times. He's a tough competition

"You've got to be pretty quick to get to the first breakdown or else he will be in there, trying to disrupt things.

"He is a good ball carrier too. I think he is a really good all-round player.

"It must be really exciting for him to be in the Welsh squad. I find him a tough guy to play against, especially at the breakdown."

If Leinster are to prosper in Coventry, they will have to clear that area so that Jamison Gibson-Park can whip the ball away.

Van der Flier is always working on developing his ground game, whether cleaning rucks or turning them over.

That timely first-half steal against Toulouse turned a dangerous attack into a relieving penalty.

Those moments can change games, inject confidence in those around you, drain it from those against you.

"Yeah, I was happy enough with that," he recalled.

"Whatever way the lad fell right at my feet, it's one of those when you go in for a poach and the ball just kinda pops up in your hand."

The Ireland flanker has been working with contact coach Hugh Hogan and listening to advice from Stuart Lancaster.

"Sometimes I'd think I need to be getting loads of turnovers every game, like (David) Pocock or whatever, all the good 7s would do.

"But, he said you have to be smart about it," shared the 25-year-old.

"If I go in for a ruck to try and get a turnover, then there's one less man in a defensive line, so I could be messing things up for the rest of the team-mates.

"It's something to be smart about and when there's opportunities there, take them."

The consistency of what Van der Flier provides never wanes.

It has put him on course to meet with Young on Sunday and, maybe somewhere down the track in the Six Nations.

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