Ireland’s CJ Stander says he is fully aware of the criticism that has surrounded his performances in recent weeks.
The back row came under fire for some below-par displays, with the Munster player failing to produce his usual number of carries across Ireland’s World Cup warm-up matches.
Saturday’s 19-10 win against Wales in Dublin ensured Ireland head to Japan on a high, with Joe Schmidt’s side looking more like the Ireland of 2018, where they won a Grand Slam, claimed a series win in Australia and beat New Zealand in Dublin for the first time.
It was also something of a return to form for Stander, playing at No 6, which included a massive carry over the top of Rhys Patchell in the build-up to Rob Kearney’s opening try.
“I haven’t had a good few carries in the last few weeks. I have got a bit of a lashing from people outside,” said Stander.
“But look, when the team works hard, we get momentum. It’s difficult for the defence to get around the corner and that’s just what I want to do for the team – get them on the front foot and enjoy those carries.
“Look, warm-up games are funny ones because people have to get tested. You have to test the players around each other and the combinations.
“It was a good performance, I think we can still do a lot better. There are things we can improve and build on.”
Stander, who made his Ireland debut in 2016, says at this stage in his career he is well able to deal with criticism.
How the winning Ireland players rated in beating Wales in Dublin https://t.co/4aTyv3LblV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 7, 2019
“I have had a good bit of it over the last few years. It’s tough sometimes when the conversations get moved onto the family.
“But stuff like that doesn’t really get into me. I just want to play the game and make sure that I put my hand up for the players around me and be sure I’m good in that jersey, so I get selected.
“It is a strong point in my game. It’s something that I had to work on and keep on working because I think you settle, it’s just going to stagnate and get you in trouble.”
Stander also addressed the backlash surrounding Jean Kleyn’s inclusion in Ireland 31-man squad.
Kleyn made the cut despite only becoming eligible to play for Ireland last month. His inclusion has not sat well with some Irish supporters and a number of former internationals, with fellow second row Devin Toner a shock omission from the final squad.
Stander is one of a number of ‘project players’ in the Ireland squad, and says that the best way for Kleyn to silence his critics is simply to perform on the pitch.
“He is someone who puts his head down and works massively hard. He is very aggressive in the game, very physical.
“He works hard to make sure he earns his spot. He is a guy who switches off completely from that (outside criticism) and makes sure that he brings his best on the weekend.
“I think he played unbelievably well. I think the team played well around him. Stuff like that doesn’t really get into the circle.
“I think he works hard. It’s the same thing with Bundee (Aki). Just make sure you keep your head down, work hard, perform for the jersey and show it means something to you. It means a lot to Bundee and Jean to be in that green jersey.”
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