Stander: ‘A Lions tour call up would be the ultimate’

CJ STANDER SAYS he is gunning for a spot on the Lions tour next summer and he’s launching his run for a slot against Edinburgh this weekend.

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Stander debuted for Ireland in his homeland in June, but an ultimately disappointing tour defeat was a setback for the Munster No 8.

But after watching Lions greats of the past during his youth in George, Stander is keen to rediscover his best form for Munster and force his way into Warren Gatland’s plans.

“Yeah, for sure, he said.

“When I arrived here it wasn’t really in my mind but then everyone started talking about it and it can happen, so it’s a goal for sure. It just depends how much and how good I can perform over the next few months.”

“I always set goals. Firstly I just wanted to get back through pre-season and get my body fit again, get all the niggles gone and then I started thinking about the next goals. Literally the next goals are performing for Munster week in, week out, getting used to the pace again.

“Then at international level, getting onto to that plane to go to Chicago and playing New Zealand. They’re on a good streak now so that will be some match to be involved in.”

The prospect of taking on the All Blacks for Ireland this autumn, and then the Lions next summer, is a massive challenge for Stander and his international teammates.

Unbeaten in 15 consecutive Test matches stretching back to August 2015, New Zealand will be primed when they face Joe Schmidt’s side in Chicago’s Soldier Field this November, and Stander has been doing his homework already.

“They’re just blowing everyone away. I watch all the games to see what they’e doing. I think they’ve got a good game-plan, they use their hands and they’re physical and they’re very fit. They just use their fitness to put teams away in the last 20 minutes.

“I reckon you have to go into the second-half of a game against them leading by at least 12 points otherwise they’re going to make life pretty difficult. So I’ll just keep on watching and see what they do, see if they’re anything we can jump into.”

CJ Stander in training. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

For Munster they will be aiming for a first home win of the season when they welcome Edinburgh to Thomond Park this Saturday.

Their loss to Cardiff by one point in Cork was a real setback, but Stander says they are ready to take on Edinburgh at their strongest point: up front.

“Everybody says about their physicality and that’s what we expect from Edinburgh. Their forward pack are very physical and if your maul is not set or your lineout is not on par they’re going to take your ball away from you.

“They’ve got their physicality but also if you give them space and let them use the ball they’ll use that and make it tough for you.

“The year before last, 13-14 (defeat at Thomond Park), a game like that, if you don’t match them physically you’re going to be in trouble. That first five minutes is big.”

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