Ireland star crowned the world's best male rugby player
Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier was crowned the world’s best male rugby player at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco on Sunday.
Three Irish players have now won the award, including legendary hooker Keith Wood and fellow 2022 nominee Johnny Sexton.
French captain Antoine Dupont was looking to become just the third player to win the award in consecutive years, but the star halfback was unsuccessful.
The other 2022 nominee was South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am, who only played a handful of Test matches this year.
Ireland finished their international season with a thrilling 13-10 win over Australia in Dublin – but van der Flier’s contribution just shows how good he is.
The Irish enforcer made a staggering 24 tackles against the Wallabies, as the 29-year-old capped off what was clearly his best year in green.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great teammates and coaches that have really pushed me on, as well as my wife and my family supporting me a huge amount,” van der Flier said after winning the award.
“Especially from teammates, I’m lucky to have some very experienced, some really, really top quality players and especially in my position as well both in Ireland and in Leinster.
“I’ve always felt I’ve needed to be playing at my best the whole time or I wouldn’t be playing so that’s certainly driven me on.”
Van der Flier played a key part in Ireland’s series win over the All Blacks earlier this year – their first ever in New Zealand.
The flanker scored Ireland’s first try in the deciding Test in Wellington, and he also made 23 tackles during the 32-22 victory.
When asked to pinpoint a highlight from the year that was, van der Flier spoke about the win over the All Blacks – before quickly backtracking.
“It’s been great. Any of the games we’ve won with the team, I think obviously to win over in New Zealand would be right up there in terms of rugby,” he said.
“My wife’s sitting there staring at me so I’d have to say I got married in August so that probably has to be up the top.”
Ireland have never made it past the quarter-finals at a Rugby World Cup, but they’re under more pressure than ever before to progress to the semis and beyond at next year’s tournament.
Van der Flier believes his side, who are ranked number one in the world, are “where every team wants to be” going into a World Cup year.
“It’s where every team wants to be. Obviously you don’t have that underdog status coming into games but it’s where we want to be, it’s kind of the goal we’ve set ourselves is to be performing at our best.
“We feel if we can do that then we should be hopefully right up the top so certainly very motivated for the next year ahead, it’ll be an exciting one.”
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