Josh van der Flier: High praise for the world’s best from the Leinster camp

Josh van der Flier looks on during a warm-up for Ireland Credit: Alamy
Josh van der Flier looks on during a warm-up for Ireland Credit: Alamy

Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath was full of praise for the newly crowned World Rugby Player of the Year, Josh van der Flier, for his achievements after plenty of hard work and dedication.

Van der Flier adds to his European Player of the Year accolade, underlining the standard of rugby played by the tireless and intelligent flanker.

The 29-year-old pipped colleague Johnny Sexton, Frenchman Antoine Dupont and Springbok Lukhanyo Am to claim the prestigious award.

Deserving of award

McGrath believes the prize is thoroughly deserved by a player who showed impressive commitment to improving as a player and as a person.

“He’s worked incredibly hard to get there. It was amazing to see. I obviously knew he had a great chance, but even just to see him get the best player in the world… he fully deserved it. So happy for him,” McGrath said at a Leinster media briefing.

“He’s obviously an amazing player, but an unbelievable person. I’m delighted for his family as well. Dirk and Olly, his parents, will be over the moon. We saw Johnny winning it a few years ago obviously as well, which was huge.

“Even just to have someone a bit younger and less experienced. Even though he [Van der Flier] has a number of internationals, to see him winning it was brilliant as well. It’s great to have Johnny and Josh both be World Players of the Year and both nominated. It gives everyone a great lift.”

Leinster flanker Scott Penny shared praise for the world’s best player, noting that Van der Flier has levelled up, particularly with ball carrying in recent times.

“It’s obviously a big credit to him. He has put in a lot of work over the last few years and he’s obviously rewarded for that. Obviously we play in the same position, competing for the same spot and it can get intense at times, but that’s just the nature of the game. Outside the pitch, we’re really good mates and we get on well,” Penny said.

“There is a lot I can take from him as well. Over the last year or two in particular, he has upped his game and his ball-carrying. He’s taken it to the next level and it’s probably something I can look to follow on, in his footsteps.”

Committed to learning

Meanwhile, Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde has seen the development of Van der Flier since joining the club in 2019 due to how “diligent” the star is off the field, always looking to learn and improve.

“He keeps on working on every aspect of his game. He is very diligent off the field and that pays dividends on the field then. He can just focus on playing. He has got so much going for him in his game, both sides of the ball. He’s an effective tackler, makes good decisions in and around the ruck defensively,” McBryde said.

“In attack, he is one of the most explosive runners. He’s got great delivery if you use him in that scrum-half role off the line-out, makes good decisions with ball-in-hand. He’s great, he’s one of the fittest in the squad and he keeps working on his game.

“He is a great role model for any up and coming youngster. To have him in Leinster, you don’t have to look any further. He’s there on the doorstep. For the youngsters coming through, you’d be foolish not to learn from Josh. His work ethic, the amount of work he puts into studying the opposition etc. So fair dues to him.”

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