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We need to get balance right at the breakdown, says Van der Flier



Josh van der Flier says Ireland’s players need to be in control

Josh van der Flier says Ireland’s players need to be in control


Josh van der Flier says Ireland’s players need to be in control

Peter O'Mahony's weekend red card is a reminder of the fine line players must tread in the battle of the breakdown, according to Josh van der Flier.

O'Mahony was sent off by referee Wayne Barnes after only 13 minutes of Ireland's Six Nations defeat by Wales in Cardiff, the Munster flanker having made contact with the head of opposition prop Tomas Francis as he went to clear out an early ruck.

Banned for three games, O'Mahony will be unavailable until the visit of England in round five.

With Ireland's increased ferocity at the breakdown a marked improvement on recent performances, the fine margins for players initiating contact are apparent.

"Yeah, it's a balance, really" admitted Van der Flier, Ireland's starting openside at the Principality Stadium.

"You need to have control over what you're doing obviously, because the defender is a moving target as well to some extent.

"You have to be very controlled, but then if you go in too softly into a ruck, you're probably not going to be very effective.

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"So it's definitely a difficult balance, and something we work on a lot, but everyone can get it wrong at some point.

"Obviously we do our best to be as controlled as we can but, even with the best intentions, they can go wrong sometimes."

Instigating an improvement at the breakdown has been one aspect of new forwards coach Paul O'Connell's early remit on Andy Farrell's coaching ticket.

Especially evident after Van der Flier's carry in the build-up to Tadhg Beirne's first-half score, the marked progression is something the side can carry into this weekend's visit from France.

"Paul has been taking care of the breakdown side of things, last week and coming into this week," added Van der Flier.

"He was definitely really good in getting us ready for the Welsh threat, especially their back row.

"And I felt that was one of the most pleasing things about the game, our attacking ruck, it was also something we spoke about as a back row unit coming into the Six Nations.

"In the Autumn it was something that definitely wasn't as good as it should have been.

"It was good against Scotland, but other than that it was good and bad, so the breakdown was definitely something we were focusing on and the addition of Paul has been definitely helpful to that."

Belfast Telegraph