CJ STANDER WAS man of the match on his Ireland debut against Wales back in 2016 and he hasn’t looked back since.
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Just five years on, he is already set to hit the 50-cap mark tomorrow when Andy Farrell’s side face Scotland in a crucial Six Nations game.
Ireland’s back row has been rejigged on plenty of occasions during Stander’s time as a Test player, but the Munster man has been virtually ever-present. The 30-year-old has been written off repeatedly, but the people in charge keep on picking him.
A Lions Test cap off the bench against New Zealand in 2017 adds to his CV, with coaches admiring Stander’s relentless appetite for hard work, his quality in contact, and his breakdown threat in defence.
Once again in the current Six Nations, he has been the busiest ball-carrier in the entire championship with 47 in three games. No other forward has carried for more than Stander’s 130 metres, while he is Ireland’s top tackler with 27, has earned two turnovers, and even has a lineout steal to his name.
It is expected that the IRFU will soon confirm a new two-year central contract for Stander and it’s very clear that Ireland boss Farrell still views him as a key player moving forward.
“It’s a difficult one to put into words because I couldn’t say enough about the bloke,” said Farrell yesterday when asked to sum up what Stander brings aside from the obvious impact on the pitch.
“He is the most genuine bloke that you would ever meet. He is as honest as the day is long and I suppose that’s what shows in his performance.
“How he acts on a daily basis and genuinely cares for people is exactly how he plays for the team.
“He’s a team-first man that takes the hard yards and puts himself into difficult situations where others may shy away from time to time.