Some people will only truly be appreciated when they are no longer playing and for me, CJ Stander counts as one of those players. In the debased discourse that surrounds the modern game, consistent top-end performers like CJ
Stander are almost the easiest ones to take for granted.
This is a guy that has been a primary impact ball carrier for Ireland and Munster at the highest level for the guts of nine seasons. In a game that demands more and more from players every season from a physical perspective, there are no demands higher than the ones placed on the role of the guy who has to truck the ball off #9 or on the crash off #10.
When you have a player who can do that consistently, you have a solid gold player. Every coach who’s been involved with Stander has seen the same thing – that he is a proper player who gives you exactly what you need at the highest level and that is consistent gain line.
All the guff you hear about his passing, offloading and “footwork” – and it is guff – is just the modern pundit looking to pin the nebulous, structural issues that have plagued Ireland’s attack for the last three seasons onto one player. Stander’s an easy target that will only see his true value when people go looking for what CJ has produced for the last five years and fifty caps at test level and find it’s no longer there.
We just don’t know what we have until it’s gone. All proper Munster supporters know Stander’s value and they also know he owes no one here anything after the work he has put in for his adopted province and country.
Ireland currently sit second in the Guinness Six Nations table behind Grand Slam chasing Wales.
It’s something of an artificial standing given that France and Scotland have a game to be rescheduled but Andy Farrell will grab it with both hands. Does it matter that the four points that propelled Ireland into this spot came at the end of a scruffy, poorly managed game where Ireland coughed up a fourteen point lead to a Scotland side buckled with second-half injuries to Gray, Cummings and Russell?
Not one little bit.
A fat W on the road is a fat W on the road no matter what way you slice it up and Andy Farrell is not at the point where style points count for a whole lot. He needed a win here and he got one. Now it’s still conceivable that Ireland could finish as low as fifth depending on how Super Saturday and that rescheduled France/Scotland game goes but that’s a problem for Future Ireland. Now Ireland is in that happy position of picking work-ons out of a scruffy win as opposed to picking up the pieces after a scruffy loss.
After the difficult 12 months that Ireland have put down, I think they’ll take that. Tomorrow’s problems – England, basically – can wait.
What did we learn? That Ireland’s pack with Tadhg Furlong in it wins collisions, even against an improved Scottish pack. We’ve learned that collision superiority combined with near-total domination at the lineout can set the table for try-scoring scenarios. By the same token, we’ve also learned that despite both of those factors, we are still struggling to create the kind of effective attacking sequences despite some stellar individual performances.
England will be a very different type of challenge and I feel that the role volatility with some of our certain starters in the outside backs will continue to be a factor until they magically become the players our scheme needs them to be or until Andy Farrell can find players to take over those roles.
Whatever about anything else, England will expose this role issue if given half a chance.