'It is strange': Ireland star reacts to 'pleasing' Player of the Year nomination
Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier said it was both “pleasing” and “strange” to be nominated for World Rugby’s Mens 15s Player of the Year in the middle of a Test match week.
Van der Flier could potentially become just the third Irishman to be crowned the world’s best rugby player at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco this weekend.
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton could also join an illustrious list of players to have won the award twice after winning it for the first time 2018.
While French captain Antoine Dupont is chasing the same piece of history, the star halfback could also become just the third player to win the award in back-to-back years.
The fourth nominee is South Africa’s Lukhanyo Am, which is somewhat surprising considering he’s only played five Test matches this year.
The World Rugby Awards are set to return to a physical format this week, but there are still Test matches to be played before the focus can shift towards individual recognition.
But van der Flier said it was “nice” to receive some recognition for his “hard work” in the Test arena this season – which included an historic series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.
“I suppose it’s nice to get reward for hard work,” van der Flier said.
“Things have probably gone my way a good bit this year, kind of get the bounce of the ball here and there.
“But it is strange. We’re in the middle of a Test match week and it’s obviously a nice thing personally but have to switch on pretty quickly to get prepped for Australia.
“If you’re nominated in the off-season you kind of have a bit more time to think over it, but I guess for the moment it’s focusing on trying to put in another good performance as a team this weekend.”
Ireland have been particularly impressive this year, and are considered to be among the favourites for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
“It’s a testament to Andy and the coaching that they’ve managed to bring out the best in a lot of us. When the team does well, all the other players, everyone who’s playing looks better then as well,” van der Flier added.
“We think we have a really good group at the moment and with the quality of player in each position, I think when you have that amount of quality and good players, it just makes everyone around them look good as well.
“It’s nice especially for Any as well, he’s been brilliant in developing the group and trying to help us improve as much as we can. It’s great for him as well to be nominated.”
Ireland have one more Test match to play in the Autumn Nations Series, and it’s blockbuster against the Wallabies in Dublin.
Aviva Stadium is set to host another enthralling contest between two rugby nations with a point to prove.
Ireland started their November internationals with a hard-fought 19-16 win over reigning World Cup champions South Africa, before a convincing win over Fiji last weekend.
Playing with the pressure and expectation of being considered the world’s best team, Ireland are looking to finish their year “with our best performance.”
“Definitely very motivated to play what will also be a very good Australian side.
“We’re certainly very excited to try and finish with our best performance. It (has) certainly been a focus to try and keep improving week on week.
“There will be things we want to finish form last weekend and definitely want to finish this block of games with a performance that we can be proud of that will hopefully set us up well for the Six Nations.
“When a team loses you see that there is weaknesses there, but probably more so you see that they’re going to be pretty fired up and annoyed having lost.
“You sometimes get that kickback reaction so certainly be expecting a very fired up Australian team I reckon.”
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