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Highlights on Off The Ball


WATCH | The Leinster players taking their games to the next level

After Leinster's win over Exeter at the weekend, Ruaidhri O'Connor and Niamh Briggs joined us for...


WATCH | The Leinster players taking their games to the next level

After Leinster's win over Exeter at the weekend, Ruaidhri O'Connor and Niamh Briggs joined us for Monday Night Rugby to look at the players becoming 'world-beaters'.

The Champions Cup quarter-final win set up a date with La Rochelle, and O'Connor believes that two players in particular are setting themselves apart.


"I think there has been a definite shift in Josh van der Flier in the last three or four months, since he got dropped mid-way through the Six Nations for Will Connors," O'Connor said.

"I have always had the sense when I interviewed him that he is one of the nicest people I have come across in interviews with work. You don't want your open-side flanker to be the nicest guy in the team. I think that the penny has dropped a little bit.

"It is not that he is even trying to be a nasty player - because some players can force that stuff - but there is a viciousness to the way he is carrying the ball now. He was always a very punchy carrier, but there is just an extra level of menace about the way he is going into contact.

"I don't know what he has done - maybe it's technical, maybe it's a bit of everything, but he is absolutely thundering into collisions and winning those he wouldn't have won before.

"He was never the greatest jackal-er for a 7 but his jackal seems to have improved and that is a bit of bloody-mindedness as well."


It appears that the Ireland 'snub' motivated van der Flier to do what he is now doing.

"I think that stung during the Six Nations and, because Will Connors did his knee in training, he was back in for the England game. It was actually apparent in one of the Leinster games [...] it looked like he was playing with a serious chip on his shoulder.

"Maybe it just shows that if you are uncomfortable in the Ireland setup and you are told 'this is what you need to do to get back in', and someone takes your place for a few weeks, then it is not the end of the world if you react well. He has reacted really, really well.

"I wouldn't have had him down as a Lion this summer but the way he is playing right now it would be hard to keep him off that plane. Leinster are missing some pretty serious sevens at the moment but they are just not missing them because he's been outstanding."

Ross Byrne

Ross Byrne is another Leinster player drawing the eye.

"He was exceptional. That quarter-final against Ulster, he basically dragged Leinster through that game in the 2018 win. I think he gets overlooked a lot because people don't think he's quite test-level. But he is playing the next best thing and he is excelling at it.

"He is running the game. He looks so comfortable in that system. The coaches trust him - he knows that - and he knows that the players around him trust him. He has got enormous confidence and he never looks that confident when he comes on for Ireland, partly because two of his starts have been at Twickenham.

"He hasn't had a fair run at international rugby. I'm not quite convinced that he is going to be Ireland's next out-half but I think that he is very much good enough to be Leinster's out-half.

"Leinster are so good, and have built such structures around him, that whatever limitations he does have are not exposed in any way. He has played centre for them and looked really good; he's a really intelligent player."

O'Connor believes that Byrne is benefiting from being part of a Leinster 'machine' that is making Ireland players look like 'world-beaters'.

"The biggest compliment you can pay [Byrne] is that I wouldn't say Leinster are massively worried about Johnny Sexton for the next few weeks. If he doesn't make La Rochelle, I think they would be pretty happy going with Ross Byrne at 10 and his brother backing him up."

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Leinster Ross Byrne Van Der Flier