Sean Farrell reports from the Aviva Stadium
GIVEN THE WEALTH of number 7 resources Ireland have been able to boast in recent years, it’s a little strange that both wins over New Zealand featured the same two opensides.
A quirk of availability brought Josh van der Flier into the starting line-up for Saturday and Jordi Murphy onto the bench, reversing their roles in Chicago.
Murphy replaced the injured Peter O’Mahony on Saturday. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
It was fitting that they were both on the field on Saturday night to celebrate Ireland’s second win over the All Blacks in 113 years. The camaraderie and shared experience of Van der Flier and Murphy has been a feature throughout this year.
The Wicklow man’s big chance on Soldier Field came after the now Ulster back row suffered a nightmare knee injury during the first half of the historic win over New Zealand.
Van der Flier’s ACL suffered the same fate during Ireland’s dramatic win over France in Paris in February. It was his turn to hobble around on crutches while celebrations flowed around him, but Murphy was among the first men to make contact and offer support, while his form during Leinster’s double campaign was a consistent source of optimism for Van der Flier while he remained on the road to recovery. A road that can take nine months, but Van der Flier ate up the ground in seven en route to Saturday’s sensational performance.
“When I first got injured, the 20th of November would have been a realistic standard return for the injury,” Van der Flier said in the depths of the Aviva Stadium after paying tribute to the work of Leinster’s rehab physio Fearghal Kerin
Van der Flier powers through Jack Goodhue. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“Obviously, I don’t think it’s the 20th yet,” he adds with a laugh, two months on from his try-scoring comeback against the Dragons, “to be ahead of schedule is testament to the work they put in that I managed to get back for this, a very special day.”
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