Andy Dunne and Gerry Thornley spoke with Joe Molloy on Monday Night Rugby where the panel explored Josh van der Flier’s recent collection of the World Rugby Player of The Year award amongst other topics.
Ireland’s Josh van der Flier won the World Rugby Player of The Year award last night, joining the illustrious list of two fellow countryman in Johnny Sexton and Keith Wood who formerly picked up the accolade.
Now amid that “mad company” of “rarefied atmosphere” within Irish rugby greats, the Leinster flanker has continuously proven himself on the world stage according to Joe Molloy, as well as the MNR panel of Andy Dunne and Gerry Thornley.
“Even the fact that he made the four-man shortlist deserved to be acknowledged in addition to Johnny” saidThornley, who laid bare the prestige of Ireland’s No 10 and 2018 World Player of The Year who was also nominated for the award very clear.
“Can you believe that back in 2021, last year only, in the Six Nations in rounds three and four Will Connors started and he wasn’t even in the 23?
“He’s played 10/11 games for Ireland this season and he’s only missed eight minutes in the third test against New Zealand…His figures are outstanding.”
Having originally come into the team to replace an injured Will Connors in 2021, there is a an instrumental facet that saw a turning point for the Wicklow man- his ability to renew his game.
“That reinvention is key for me in all of this” says Dunne.
“The way he went away at 28 years of age to reinvent himself as a really potent carrier as well as this tackling machine who’s coming up constantly with big plays” added Thornley.
“He worked and worked and worked on this to such an extent. I’d say lot of players go into a carry and say yeah, I’ve put about 80% of myself into that. Something clicked with Josh about a year or two ago that he went into every carry at 100% and he never went back.
“He’s a great example and a source of inspiration to a lot of players and on top of that he’s a top bloke…Nobody can says a bad word about him.”
With Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and other coaches along the way attributed to have fastracked that success, what really stood van der Flier apart was his “potent carrying ability”, his “tackling machine” work ethic and his coolness under pressure to “constantly with big plays” says Thornley.
Add this to his “team first approach” and the 29 year old was always going to produce a winning formula supplemented Dunne.
“It’s great to see someone with that team first attitude win an individual world sports player of the year accolade.
“It’s nice to see a complete team man be that impactful enough to win world player of the year and justifiably.”
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