Josh van der Flier deserves to European Player of the Year, according to Fiona Hayes.
The European Player of the Year five-man shortlist was announced this week.
Leinster players feature prominently on the list. It comprises of Josh van der Flier, James Lowe, Caelan Doris, Gregory Alldritt and Antoine Dupont. Four of the five will feature in the Champions Cup Final between Leinster and La Rochelle. The other is Antoine Dupont so his inclusion is inevitable.
Dupont didn't play well enough in Toulouse' knockout games to be a serious contender. As such, the four remaining candidates will compete individually in the final.
Former Munster and Ireland player Fiona Hayes believes there is one standout candidate this season.
"It has to be van der Flier," Hayes said.
"From the minute it was released, the first list. He's been outstanding and he's performed well in every game. His level of performance is even getting better with every game. He's improved his carries and people have talked a lot about his carries. Even his tackle technique, he's staying injury free.
"For me he's been the absolute standout performer."
Hayes notes that Dupont didn't do enough in Toulouse colours despite starring for France all season.
Van der Flier is a valuable player for Leinster, but he wasn't considered a superstar before this season. He's a regular starter for Ireland and a nailed-on starter for Ireland, but it wasn't until he improved his ball carrying that he became a star.
That individual improvement is consistent across the board in Leinster. Cian Treacy testified that van der Flier is a reflection of the work done by the coaching staff in Leinster.
"There are so many Leinster players who have seriously improved over the last few years," Treacy said.
"And I think that's down to the coaching. The players are clearly unbelievably talented and unbelievably skilled, but the quality of the coaching they're getting has taken a lot of players to new levels. You think of James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park. Ross Molony is a perfect example.
"So much of that is down to the coaching."
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