Henshaw and Henderson in the mix as Farrell considers changes for Paris

The Ireland boss says his squad will miss Keith Earls, who suffered a hamstring injury last week.

Henshaw is back in full training.
Henshaw is back in full training.
Image: Ryan Bailey/INPHO

IT’S ALWAYS DIFFICULT to change a winning formula and Andy Farrell will surely value the importance of continuity and cohesion as Ireland get set for a huge Six Nations visit to France on Saturday.

The Ireland head coach will, however, strongly consider making changes to his matchday 23 with the returns to full fitness of Robbie Henshaw and Iain Henderson.

The Ulster lock missed last weekend’s win over Wales having come up just short in his bid to prove his readiness after a recent ankle injury. Ryan Baird backed up starting second rows Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan in last weekend’s 29-7 bonus-point win over Wales.

Leinster centre Henshaw, meanwhile, picked up an adductor niggle in training two weeks ago and missed several sessions as a result. Farrell opted for a centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose against Wales, with James Hume in the number 23 shirt as Keith Earls missed out due to a hamstring injury.

Unfortunately for Ireland, 96-times capped Earls looks likely to be missing again this weekend for their visit to Paris and potentially even longer.

“He was gutted to leave the camp and we will miss the likes of Earlsie because he epitomises what we want this environment to be,” said Farrell on Saturday as he praised the Munster man’s influence on younger backs in the squad.

“He shares absolutely everything that he’s got to make sure that this team gets better. It doesn’t matter what the competition is, he makes sure that he gives his all so that we all benefit.”

keith-earls Earls injured his hamstring in training last week. Source: Ryan Bailey/INPHO

Ulster hooker Rob Herring is another man who is sidelined due to a calf injury and while Farrell did not confirm any new call-ups to the Ireland squad on Saturday, it’s understood that Connacht’s Dave Heffernan was with the group last weekend.

The return to fitness of two Lions in Henshaw and Henderson is clearly a big boost, though, and it would be no surprise if both come into the Ireland 23 for the France clash.

“We will see,” said Farrell when asked about the prospect of some difficult conversations this week. “It’s going to take a whole squad over the course of the Six Nations to win this competition.

“It’s very tough and demanding, not just because of the nature of the games but it’s the length of the competition as well and the competition for places in the squad is always going to be taxing on the players so the conversations are always difficult. 

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s a British and Irish Lion or a guy that’s done it with his first cap, they are always difficult.”

Happily, Ireland didn’t pick up any new injuries during the win over Wales. Two-try right wing Andrew Conway had been sick on the day of the game but played on through it to great effect.

“We’re in good health,” said a relieved Farrell post-match.

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hugo-keenan-celebrates-as-andrew-conway-scores-their-second-try Ireland enjoyed a good start to the Six Nations on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The last time Ireland went to Paris was in the 2020 Six Nations, a rescheduled game that they lost 35-27.

Ireland “learned a lot of lessons about ourselves” that evening, according to Farrell.

“It was a big game when we could have got across the line for the Six Nations and we didn’t deliver on the big stage so I feel the group has grown since then. I suppose the proof will be in the pudding.”

While Ireland notched a bonus point against the Welsh, France began their Six Nations campaign by beating Italy 37-10 yesterday in Paris.

Conditions were very difficult and Italy made life tricky for the French at times, but they notched their bonus-point win and Farrell knows les Bleus will be better this weekend.

“We know difficult it is to go to Paris,” said Farrell.

“There is no doubt about it, it’s the test of all tests at this moment in time.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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