Josh van der Flier set for Final showdown
May 19, 2023 10:45 am Daniel Kelly
Josh van van der Flier is hoping to add the one major medal missing off his CV with Leinster this weekend.
Van der Flier was part of the extended Leinster squad that won the Heineken Champions Cup in Bilbao in 2018, and he was on the field last year, when La Rochelle were victorious in Marseille.
Speaking earlier this week, the 30-year-old says that the squad is in a better position this year, due to the learnings from last year’s encounter.
“The experience we’ve learned along the way – I’d like to think, every year we have added things on and tried to improve things. The lessons we have learned from last year I hope are invaluable. I’d like to think we are a better team for sure.”
La Rochelle go into their third Heineken Champions Cup Final in a row, and the flanker has been impressed watching the French side from afar.
“They’ve been brilliant all season. Getting to three Heineken Champions Cup Finals in a row is very impressive. Full credit to them. They’ve shown their consistency.
“They’ve good dangerous backs, and a real physical pack. They’ve shown their class and consistency in the past few years.
“It’ll be a big challenge. It was the same last year. They have some really good individuals that are key to how they play, and La Rochelle uses them really well. We’ll be expecting a tough game against a brilliant team.”
This year’s Final takes place in Dublin, and after Leinster traveled to a partisan Marseille that was dominated by La Rochelle fans last year, he is hoping for the opposite outcome this weekend.
“We saw last year in Marseille, the difference in the support La Rochelle had. It was an incredible atmosphere. We’re hoping for the same this year., but on our side with a few more blue flags.”
Van der Flier knows that while the support will be important in the stadium, fans will be watching on all around the 12 counties, and further afield.
“We wish we could get every Leinster supporter into the stadium. The support we have had is amazing, whether we play home or away.
“It’ll be incredibly special to play in Dublin at home with all our family and friends watching on with the Sea of Blue and Leinster supporters will be very special.”
Saturday’s Final is the first to take place in Dublin since 2013. The closest Leinster have come to playing in a Dublin Final was in 2003, when the team lost in the Semi-Finals to Perpignan. Van der Flier knows this experience may never come again for these players.
“I’d like to think that every time we take the field, we give everything. But I suppose this week, definitely this week, there is a trophy on the line. Unfortunately, it’s our last week of the season, either way. Where else would you rather be, that in a European Final, for a week like this? It’s unbelievably exciting.
“Looking back on the season, so much work has gone in since pre-season. A huge amount of work has gone in. Hopefully we will put in as big of a performance as we can.”