Van der Flier’s Six Nations over as he is ruled out for eight weeks
Coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to sign two-year contract extension with Leinster
Leinster’s Josh van der Flier leaves the field with an injury against Edinburgh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The omens didn’t look good when Ireland and Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier left the field against Edinburgh on Friday. That gloomy prognosis was confirmed on Monday by Leinster assistant coach Stuart Lancaster, who said the 23-year-old could be out of rugby for up to eight weeks.
His grade-three AC shoulder joint injury will continue to be assessed over the coming days but the Irish flanker could miss the entire Six Nations Championship as well as the European Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Wasps on April 1st.
Dave Kearney, who had hoped to fight his way back into the Ireland squad, also experienced a double setback. The winger was removed at half-time with a head injury and failed to pass a head injury assessment. But he also sustained an injury to his foot and could be sidelined for a number weeks.
“Josh is a grade-three AC joint. Those have been turned around in three weeks but we obviously need to get the advice of experts in the field as to how stable the joint is,” said Lancaster.
“Josh is the ultimate professional. It could be anything up to six or seven or eight [weeks]. It’ll depend. It’s obviously an important part of your body, the shoulder, for playing rugby, so we need to make sure it’s stable and he’s not going to get a re-injury.
“It’s a disappointing one for him, but obviously an opportunity for Dan Leavy – I think he was excellent when he came on and probably deserves his call-up to the squad.
“It’s obviously a disappointing blow for Dave,” added Lancaster. “The HIA is one thing but then getting the injury to his foot on the back of what he’s gone through . . . I mean he’s a tough guy, he’s got a lot of years in him still, so it’s not like it’s going to be the end of the season for him, but he’ll take a few weeks I think.”
Lancaster also confirmed that he has renewed his contract with Leinster for a further two years having been linked to just about every club head coaching position, including Connacht, that has arisen since he arrived in Ireland last autumn.
The former England head coach will continue to commute between Dublin and England, where his family live. He has decided not to relocate.
The former school teacher has two sons, aged 15 and 16, and uprooting them to a school in Dublin would cause too much disruption at a time when they are preparing for exams.
“There’s no reason why I won’t. Let’s put it that way,” said Lancaster when asked had he signed with Leinster for two years. “It’s where I want to be. It’s not all signed sealed and delivered but I’m certainly not looking elsewhere.
“I had a good long chat with my family about the various options that could be taken and they wanted [me] to stay here as well. It ticks all the boxes.
“Also I feel like I’m coaching not so far away from international level because the majority of players here play international rugby. My relationship with Joe Schmidt has always been strong. My relationship with Andy Farrell is very strong. I used to play with Simon Easterby at Leeds so I know him very well. The links with the national team are very strong. I know David Nucifora very well too.”
Lancaster added that when he coached England they came to Dublin twice, won a match and then lost in 2015. Against Ireland in Dublin, one area he always emphasised to his England players was the breakdown and the absolute need to win it in Lansdowne Road.
That principle will hold when France arrive at the weekend.
“If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with Ireland, you’ve really got to go toe-to-toe at the breakdown,” said Lancaster.
“I think France will do that. I think they have improved under Guy Novès. The quality of their players he has selected is strong, very athletic, very big, very powerful. And their ability to play an offloading game and play an unpredictable style of attack is where it sets them apart at the moment.”