To some, Leinster’s defeat to Toulouse last October is a negative memory— a millstone that could hamper their prospects of qualifying from Pool 1.
But to Josh van der Flier, the province’s one-point loss in Toulouse in round two is something that will help ensure a home victory when the sides meet again in the RDS in January.
The January 12 meeting could go a long way to deciding who earns a priceless home quarter-final, and the 28-27 defeat two months ago will not be seen as a negative, according to the flanker.
“We wouldn’t come back to the defeat too much really, but I suppose that is in everyone’s heads,” said Josh van der Flier, the Leinster flanker.
“You think about what games you remember the most, I’d say most people would say Toulouse anyway just because we lost.
“But there will only ever be learnings that will be mentioned. It will only be mentioned in the context of ‘don’t do what we did in Toulouse’, that kind of thing – trying to learn from it.
It would never be brought back up in a negative or an unhelpful way. I suppose it means that Toulouse are the team to chase now. You take the learnings from it.
Van der Flier, who came off after just 17 mins in France, will be eager to keep his place in the starting line-up for the visit of the French side, after he, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan, and Rhys Ruddock shared the back row duties for the double header against Bath in recent weeks.
Seán O’Brien could be back soon, according to van der Flier, while Caelen Doris, Josh Murphy, and Max Deegan will be eager to push their case over the coming weeks.
Yet, van der Flier’s experience of downing the All Blacks in November ensures his stock has never been higher.
“Obviously, off the back of November you have got a huge amount of confidence, coming from such a successful series. I always find it really exciting to come back to Leinster, not too difficult at all,” he said.
The Wicklow man admits he feared the knee ligament that ended his season last February might cost him the chance to face New Zealand.
“It was my goal, anyway, but if you asked me how confident I was of really doing it, it would be hard to say,” he said.
“It was obviously the goal to get back starting for Ireland but, at the time, I got injured it was looking like I’d be back just after the November internationals.
"I got back a bit sooner than expected. It worked out quite well, I can only be pleased really.”
The hard-to-please back-row was not overly impressed by his display against Bath in the Rec, when Leinster were dominated at the breakdown by Sam Underhill and Francois Louw.
Things improved in Dublin, where the province upped their physicality and generally dominated possession, and van der Flier admitted he gave himself a stern talking to after the game in England.
“There were obviously a few things that I felt I could have done better. I came back in really excited to be at Leinster so I wouldn’t have called it a lack of motivation or whatever, I think it was tough conditions and a really tough game,” he said.
I wasn’t too pleased with how I played – a few things I was happy with, a few things I wasn’t. I think it is kind of the same with every game. Every game you come out of you are kind of thinking ‘Oh I could have done this better, I could have done that better.
“Sometimes, you slip off a few tackles. My approach would be that you do everything in the week to make sure that you have no stress whatsoever coming up to the weekend.
“So you are kind of thinking ‘I have done everything, there is no reason anything should go wrong because I have done all of the practice now’.
"Obviously, however, it goes, that’s how it goes. Then you do it all over again the next week.”