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Stander can be on the plane to New Zealand, insists Flannery

By Robert Jones

Ireland forward CJ Stander's mentality could see him start for the British and Irish Lions Test team in New Zealand, says Munster coach Jerry Flannery.

Back-rower Stander has excelled for Munster in the European Champions Cup this season, and scored a hat-trick for Ireland in the thrashing of Italy.

"If CJ continues to stay healthy I don't see any reason why he couldn't be in the running for the Lions, Flannery said.

"His mindset is quite special."

Flannery, a former Ireland and Munster hooker who was selected for the Lions in 2009, says Stander has made a significant impact on the province since his arrival from South Africa in 2012.

"He keeps looking to get better," Flannery added.

"He is a very selfless player. He holds players accountable, he makes players better. He is a good, honest player - he's a players' player.

"At this stage he will go down as one of the best signings Munster have ever made."

Despite being on the verge of the Springboks set-up before his move to Ireland, Stander was signed by the Irish Rugby Football Union as a "project player" who would qualify for the national side on residency.

And while accepting this may have blocked the development of some young players, Flannery feels Stander has instead lifted the standards across the game in Ireland.

"I can understand there will be young Irish players who will love to play in CJ's position," Flannery said.

"But if you get your recruitment right you bring in players who raise the whole standard of Irish rugby."

Meanwhile, Munster and Ireland rugby legend Ronan O'Gara is to be awarded the Freedom of Cork this year.

In a career stretching over two decades, the former out-half collected 128 caps for Ireland, making him the second most capped player behind Brian O'Driscoll.

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