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Van der Flier injury a huge blow for Ireland – Stander

Leinster flanker will miss the rest of the Six Nations after suffering knee ligament damage.

Josh Van der Flier’s season-ending knee injury is a “massive” blow to Ireland’s NatWest 6 Nations campaign, according to team-mate CJ Stander.

Flanker Van der Flier suffered knee ligament damage in Saturday’s tournament-opening 15-13 win over France in Paris, and will now be sidelined
until the summer.

Ireland were already sweating on British and Irish Lions stalwart Sean O’Brien shaking off hip trouble to feature in the tournament, and have now been hit by another back-row injury.

Munster flanker Stander admitted Ireland will miss Leinster star Van der Flier’s all-action approach, as they chase a third Six Nations crown in five years.

Asked how big a blow Van der Flier’s loss will prove to Ireland, Stander said: “I think massive. He’s a tough player, a physical player, he always pitches up, not just in games but in training, he lifts the energy of the whole squad and he’s been around the players since coming in as a young fella and impressed all of us.

“At this level now, he’s playing well week in, week out, especially in the back-row, he’s going to be a big loss.

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CJ Stander

“There are a lot of guys pushing for a jersey there, but he’s still going to be missed. Hopefully he gets sorted quite quick.”

Johnny Sexton’s last-gasp drop-goal sealed Ireland’s dramatic win over Les Bleus, who had nearly stolen victory thanks to Teddy Thomas’ stunning solo try.

Ireland now host Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday in what will be former full-back Conor O’Shea’s first Dublin encounter as Azzurri head coach.

That is the first of three straight home games for Ireland, with Wales and Scotland also visiting, before the hotly-anticipated March 17 showdown with England at Twickenham that many expect to decide the entire tournament.

Head coach Joe Schmidt admitted Van der Flier had suffered knee ligament damage in Saturday’s post-match press conference, but Irish bosses confirmed the extent of the injury on Monday.

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Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt

“Josh Van der Flier has been ruled out of the remainder of the season with a serious knee ligament injury,” read an Irish Rugby Football Union
(IRFU) statement.

Van der Flier’s injury also represents a significant blow to Leinster, who must do without the 24-year-old for the rest of a highly-promising season, with a Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens in April still in the offing.

Ireland appear to have emerged otherwise unscathed from their gruelling Six Nations opener.

Fit-again Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne has returned to the squad to boost the front-row options, but Andrew Conway remains sidelined with a knee concern of his own.

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Dave Kilcoyne

“Dave Kilcoyne has re-joined the squad while Jack O’Donoghue and Barry Daly will train with the group during the early part of this week,” read the IRFU statement.

“Andrew Conway will continue his rehab at Munster this week while James Cronin has returned to Limerick in order to garner some game minutes with
Munster in the Guinness Pro14 at the weekend.”

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