Irish backrow deflects praise ahead of Wallabies showdown

by AFP

Irish flanker Josh van der Flier earned plaudits from coach Joe Schmidt for his performance against New Zealand last weekend but he modestly dismisses suggestions he has replaced icon Paul O'Connell as the workhorse of the team.

The 23-year-old -- whose grandparents are Dutch and whose father Dirk played for the Leinster Under-21 side -- is likely to be in the starting XV and win his fifth cap against World Cup finalists Australia on Saturday after an impressive performance in the 21-9 defeat by the All Blacks last weekend.

However, despite many labelling him the workhorse of the team the Leinster man says his workrate is such he has not earned the right yet.

"I take it as a compliment but looking back at the video there was definitely times when I was pretty tired and jogging back fairly slowly so I don't know if I have quite earned that title," said van der Flier.

"It's something to work on, that side of the game.

"If you can't be making the big plays then instead of making ten tackles you can make twelve or fifteen tackles and have more involvement in the game.

"The more involvements you have and the fitter you are the more impact you are going to have for the team."

Van der Flier, who has had a rapid rise having made his Leinster debut just two years ago,  said he does not just want to be known as a destroyer and in any case under Schmidt everyone is called upon to have a more all round game.

"The way it is going there's not really one job for anyone in the back row," said van der Flier.

"Everyone has to be seen to carry and tackle and be messing up the opposition breakdown and be a good link-up in attacking play as well. - Josh van der Flier

"I definitely want to improve my all-round game.

"You want to be that link man between backs and forwards because that's traditionally what a seven (openside flanker)  would have been as well as the breakdown work."

Van der Flier, who said the match with the All Blacks had been the most physical game he had played in which left three Irish players requiring Head Injury Assessments (HIA), admitted his task was getting no easier as he contemplates confronting the formidable Australian backrow which fields two of the best in the world in David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

"These are the games you want to be playing, especially as a back row,"said van der Flier, who had to slot in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker against the All Blacks after CJ Stander went off with a head injury.

"Pocock is as good a seven (openside) as you get really, he's probably been one of the best if not the best sevens of the last five or so years.

"So he's been brilliant. And then Hooper as well has been unreal. (Scott) Fardy and (Lopeti) Timani as well. They're all brilliant - brilliant back rows so every game is going to be hard."

The 'Pooper' combination is just one scary element of the Wallabies backrow. Photo; Getty ImagesHowever, van der Flier says his belief in that he belongs at this level has risen on the back of playing two Tests against the All Blacks in quick succession -- he replaced injured try scorer Jordi Murphy in the historic 40-29 win over the New Zealanders in Chicago.

"It gives you confidence I suppose," he said.

"I would have watched Ireland play Australia, Ireland play New Zealand, those kind of teams all the way growing up and you don't really know, even though you play Celtic  League and European Cup, you don't really know if you'll be good enough at that level.

"It gives you a lot of confidence that you don't look too out of place. It gives you confidence in that regard."

The Wallabies face Ireland at Lansdowne Rd at 4:30am Sunday morning AEDT, LIVE on SBS and Foxtel's beIN Sport as well as streamed on SBS on Demand and Foxtel Go.