Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier spoke of his delight after being selected as the World Rugby Player of the Year, but also wants to use it as motivation for further success.
The back-row became just the third Irishman to claim the honour – after Keith Wood and Johnny Sexton – by beating Lukhanyo Am, Sexton and Antoine Dupont to the prize.
Van der Flier has developed enormously over the past two years and wants to continue his progression looking ahead to a big 2023.
Sitting alongside legends
“Even though I knew I was nominated, honestly it hasn’t really sunk in, but (I’m) feeling very honoured,” he said.
“I was sitting at a table with the likes of Dan Carter, Bryan Habana, Conrad Smith, all these greats of the game.
“Chatting to them, it definitely drives you on to kind of not make it a one-off season that goes really well. You look at the legends of the game like them that have played to that top level for 15 years or so.
“So, that’s certainly going to drive me on. No doubt the way we’ve been pushed by the coaches in Ireland to perform and to try and improve, I think you’ve probably seen that in the individual performances as well as the team performance.”
Personal accolades mean little to Van der Flier if the side falters, however, and the flanker reserved praise for the efforts of his Ireland team-mates.
Grateful to the team
“Team success is what you want at the end of the day,” he added.
“I’m very grateful for the team that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of and how well we’ve done this year.
“They showed a highlights reel for the nominees, all my tries were set up by someone else or they were maul tries where everyone else did all the other work and I just put the ball down.
“It’s been one of those seasons where I’ve got on the end of a few, the bounce of the ball went my way.
“It was pretty cool to be even nominated alongside Lukhanyo, Antoine and Johnny as well. It was a very special moment to be announced as the winner.”