Sean McMahon reporting from the RDS
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has praised the performance of man-of-the-match Josh van der Flier after his side’s 24-9 victory over Munster at the RDS on Saturday afternoon.
Van der Flier played 77 minutes of this afternoon’s semi-final victory and these were the first minutes which the flanker has played since he suffered a groin injury while playing for Ireland against France during the Six Nations.
It was expected at the time that the 26-year-old would be ruled out for the rest of the season with the main target being getting himself back to fitness in time to take part in Ireland’s warm-up games before the World Cup.
However, he returned to training last week ahead of the Heineken Champions Cup final with Saracens and following another successful week of training just gone, he was included in Cullen’s starting XV for the visit of Munster.
Van der Flier was excellent throughout the game where he produced some superb turnovers while also hammering into tackles which stopped Munster in their tracks.
“He was incredible, wasn’t he? Considering he got injured two years in a row against France, one he does his ACL and then the other one he does his groin,” Cullen said to the media during the post-match press conference.
“I thought he was going to be gone for the rest of the season so to get himself back and in such good shape, it’s a credit to him. As I said, in terms of a role model for other players to look to and how you manage yourself, he does an amazing job. Delighted to see him go so well today.”
The big decision for Cullen and Stuart Lancaster will be who to select at openside for next weekend where Leinster will hope to sign off on their season with some silverware when they meet the Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park.
Sean O’Brien is expected to be available for next weekend but based on that performance and of the whole back-row unit over the 80 minutes, it may be too difficult not to entrust van der Flier once again.