As Josh Van Der Flier tries to celebrate his 50th birthday, he believes he’s become an important man since being named world player of the year. Ireland cap with Grand Slam glory.
Winger Van Der Flier swept the global individual award after a spectacular 2022 and continued his fine form to help bring his country to the brink of disaster. Guinness Six Nations clean sweep.
The 29-year-old will make a landmark Test in Saturday’s Dublin showdown. England and he thinks his recent rise has led to more attention on the court.
“I think there were games where I got the ball a few times and saw three boys on me and I thought I’d have a little more room,” Van Der Flier said.
“This may not be the case and it may be in my head, but I certainly felt a few times that someone took pleasure in hitting me hard.”
When asked if there were some in-game jokes from opposing players, he replied, “Really no, thank goodness – I have more lads on my team if I make a mistake!”
“(It hasn’t) not much has changed. But I think I definitely find the ball carrying, for example, I guess I’m a little more marked. But it leaves room for other people.”
Van Der Flier will try to make up for the disappointment of missing Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam match against England at Twickenham due to injury this weekend.
He showed his first-team mentality by throwing a line-up after the loss of hookers Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher in their chaotic 22-7 fourth-round win in Scotland last weekend.
Andy Farrell joked that the back line forward would replace captain Johnny Sexton as the team’s goal scorer against Steve Borthwick’s side.
“It’s going to be a very special day,” said Van Der Flier. “Fifty caps flew away pretty quickly.
“I try not to think too much about it in my head; I think I accept that this is so and also the importance of the big game and what is at stake.
“I wouldn’t be too worried about such an individual thing (50 times), it’s what we all work for to win trophies and big games for Ireland, so that’s definitely the big focus.”
A few years ago, Van Der Flier was in danger of falling behind Leinster teammate Will Connors in club and country standings.
Number seven overcame this threat to become a key player for Ireland and received praise from his head coach.
“Wow, what two years for Josh,” Farrell said. “You get back to his story, all because of the competition for places in Leinster and Ireland – Will Connors takes the stage, etc.
“Josh was one of those guys who held up his hand and said to himself, ‘it’s up to me.’
“She has never looked back since she did it and she deserves all the praise she gets because she’s incredibly diligent when it comes to preparation.
“It’s phenomenal to watch how he attacks every match.”