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'We're definitely seeing progress,' insists Henderson after Ireland defeat in Dublin

The stand-in skipper rued Ireland’s inability to take advantage of France’s yellow card.

Ulster man Henderson captained Ireland against France.
Ulster man Henderson captained Ireland against France.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND SECOND ROW Iain Henderson insists they are making progress despite a second consecutive defeat in the 2021 Six Nations.

Andy Farrell’s side came up short on a 15-13 scoreline at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin but stand-in captain Henderson felt Ireland could have been celebrating a win had they been more clinical.

Farrell has suffered five defeats in his first 11 games in charge of Ireland, with all four of those losses coming against France and England, the other against Wales last weekend.

This was the first home Six Nations defeat for Ireland against France since 2011 and they have now lost their two opening games of the championship for the first time since 1998. 

Henderson, who led his country for the first time in the absence of Johnny Sexton, James Ryan, and Peter O’Mahony, believes that Ireland are not far off despite the losses to Wales and the French in the past fortnight.

“We’re definitely seeing progress, everyone is striving for it, everyone is working really hard,” said Henderson post-match.

“There’s a huge amount of frustration. We’re definitely seeing guys put in the time, everyone is trying their best to produce this progress on the pitch but it’s that last couple of inches, that last wee bit that we just need to push over the line.

“Speaking in terms of rugby, you get up into the opposition 22 and it’s those last couple of metres that are actually extremely difficult to get. We’re working hard and no one is going to give up, whether it’s our coaching staff or players, we will continually push to get this.

“We’ve had two games in these last couple of weeks and both of them I think could very, very much have gone the other way and we’d be sitting here with a completely different mentality.

rhys-ruddock-dejected-at-the-final-whistle Rhys Ruddock at the final whistle. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“So we’re proud of the work the guys have been putting in and I’m looking forward to working together going forward to see that hard work coming together.”

Henderson had major regrets about Ireland’s failure to take advantage of a first-half yellow card for France lock Bernard le Roux.

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Ireland came close to scoring through James Lowe soon after the sin-binning but ended up conceding to France captain Charles Ollivon to lose that 10-minute period 7-0.

“We’re not taking the opportunities that are presenting themselves for us,” said Henderson. “I felt we were in good positions for a lot of the game and I also felt it was more so than France, but France got their opportunities and took them.

“We have to capitalise on their yellow card. Instead of letting them get points, we have to get points, even if it’s a penalty. A try there could change the outcome of the game, how the second half looks and it changes the way France play. Ultimately, it changes the whole game.

“When we have those opportunities, when we have an extra man on the pitch, we have to capitalise.”

Henderson said he has passed two Head Injury Assessments so far, having been temporarily replaced early in the second half of the clash with France.

Ireland now have a trip to Italy in two weekends’ time, with an away clash against Scotland, and a home tie against England also still to come.

“Ultimately we’ve got three games left, our backs are against the wall,” said Henderson. “We have to pull out performances not just for the next game but the next three games.

“We have a week now to recover, review, and make sure that when we come into our next match-week we’ve made all the fix-ups that we see as possible. If there’s anything that needs changing across the board, this week and next week’s training have to fix them.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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