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Josh van der Flier names the one player who was crucial to his improvement

Josh van der Flier

Josh van der Flier has revealed that Will Connors was crucial in spurring him on to being the best player possible.

2022 has been an outstanding year for Van der Flier, as the Leinster and Ireland flanker has won numerous individual awards, the latest of which is the biggest of all.

The newly-crowned World Rugby men’s 15s player of the year found himself somewhat out of favour with for his province and country less than two years ago, as Connors started ahead of him in some big matches for Leinster and Ireland.

Van der Flier has firmly established himself as his country’s first-choice open side flanker now however, and credited competition from Connors for pushing him on.

Josh van der Flier pays tribute to Will Connors.

“I suppose if I was to look at a period that has definitely kicked me on was two years ago around now, when I wasn’t getting picked for some games with Leinster. Will Connors was starting, he was playing brilliantly,” Van der Flier explained.

“I wasn’t getting picked for some of the Irish games as well. I was kind of in and out of the team. I realised, I mean I always try to improve, but I was like, ‘I need to kind of up my game or I won’t be playing for Leinster or Ireland.’

“That was definitely a thing that drove me on. I probably managed to get a good blend the last year or so of the various bits of my game that had been good over a few years, I just managed to get it to performances on the weekend.

“As things fall into place I guess, I managed to stay fit and got a few bounces of the ball and obviously was in a great Leinster team and a really, really good Irish team.”

A remarkable rise through the ranks.

Van der Flier made his debut for Ireland back in 2016, although he certainly hasn’t been a guaranteed starter for his country since then in a very competitive back row.

Just last summer Van der Flier missed out on selection for the British and Irish Lions, while Ireland team mates Jack Conan and Tadhg Beirne featured in the back row in Warren Gatland’s team.

While Connors limited Van der Flier’s opportunities at Leinster and Ireland for a period of time, he has played very little rugby recently as he has been plagued by injuries.

Should Connors return to full fitness he will surely stake his claim again, although Van der Flier currently has a firm grip on Ireland’s number seven jersey.

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