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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Chris Henry: 'You have to prepare for getting smashed and do some damage yourself'

Ulster star will line out at openside flanker for Ireland against Romania on Sunday.

Chris Henry in training at St. George's Park today with the Irish squad.
Chris Henry in training at St. George's Park today with the Irish squad.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CHRIS HENRY HAS come a long way in the past year after a serious illness and is set to line out for Joe Schmidt’s team in Sunday’s Pool D encounter with Romania at the Rugby World Cup.

In November 2014 he suffered a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain before Ireland’s end-of-year test against South Africa, but he puts all that behind him at Wembley this weekend.

“It’s very special. It’s been a rocky year for me and to get a start means the world to me. I’ve watched World Cups growing up and it’s a great environment to be in and now the pressure is on.”

The 30-year-old Ulsterman added, “In two or three months I’ll look back a bit more and think about how incredible this was. But for the moment it’s just about the process and getting stuck in.

“To come from the hard dark times I’ve had to be in the mix now is incredibly special.”

Henry is fully aware he has to stake his claim for a regular place in Ireland’s back row when he takes to the field on Sunday evening with the competition for places intense.

“This is another chance for everyone getting the start to cause more selection headaches. Seany (O’Brien) is hitting some great form, Jamie (Heaslip) is always consistent and you’ve got Jordi (Murphy) there who’s a quality player too.”

Number eight Heaslip will captain his country for the 11th time in the game, with Schmidt making 12 changes from the team that faced Canada in the opening fixture.

The Irish team had a careful eye on the France-Romania fixture this week and got a chance to size up this weekend’s opponents. The last time the teams met was in an Autumn international back in 2005 when the Irish were 43-12 victors at Lansdowne Road.

Tommy Bowe is the only current member of the Irish squad who was involved that day, and he has earned a starting place for Sunday after missing out on the match squad for Canada.

Tommy Bowe of Ireland is stopped by the Romanian defence 26/11/2005 Tommy Bowe is the only player in the current Irish squad who was involved the last time they met Romania in 2005. Ireland won that day 43-12 at Lansdowne Road. Source: ©INPHO

Henry is fully aware the Eastern European side will be no pushovers.

“The aggression and passion Romania showed (against France) is something I’m bracing myself for – their back row really threw themselves around like madmen at times so we’ve really got to channel our aggression and emotion.”

As for this being Romania’s second game in four days, Henry says the Irish team aren’t giving that too much thought.

“I suppose it is tough for them, but this is what a World Cup is about. We can’t worry about that too much – we’ve just got to worry about our process and get stuck in early doors and make sure we’re clinical.”

The team paid a visit to Alton Towers and a clay pigeon shooting range yesterday with many great pictures as proof, and Henry and his teammates are clearly enjoying themselves.

“The craic’s been good and this squad is good at switching on at the right times and we’ve trained really well. We’ve had fun and now it’s time to go to London and really enjoy the buildup to this, it’s a massive chance for everybody involved.”

Henry is fully aware that Canada and Romania pose two completely different challenges and knows the breakdown will be crucial against a dogged Romania.

“You have to prepare yourself for getting smashed and do some damage yourself too hopefully. That’s what test match rugby is all about.

“I played 80 minutes against Scotland before the tournament so I know I’ve got that full-game performance in me.”

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Shane Hannon

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