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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Iain Henderson backs Billy Burns to bounce back from his kicking blunder

The Ireland out-half missed touch with the final kick of yesterday’s game – ending Ireland’s hopes of a sensational come-from-behind win.

Will Connors consoles Billy Burns.
Will Connors consoles Billy Burns.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

REGRETS? BILLY BURNS has a few. After Peter O’Mahony’s red card left Ireland with a mountain to climb, the 14 men got a glimpse of the peak.

And then Burns suffered altitude sickness. That final kick, directed at the corner, was woefully wayward, so much so that you can’t help wondering, even this early in his international career, if this will be the defining moment of his days as an Ireland player.

Iain Henderson thinks not as well as hopes not. The Ulster captain is close to Burns from their time together in Belfast and sensed how much the out-half was hurting after the game. Still, he believes Burns has the mentality to recover from such a huge setback.

“Billy is upset,” Henderson said. “As a player, he puts a huge amount on his own shoulders a lot of the time and he has definitely – almost always – carried Ulster in the past. And he will do that for Ireland in the future.

“I thought he was excellent when he came on. And I think when he goes back and looks at (the game) again, he will take a lot from the impact he made in the match.”

So, inevitably, will Ireland.

Despite the frustration of letting this match slip away – with 14 men they could, indeed should, have won – there were a number of positives to balance out the headline grabbing negatives.

Robbie Henshaw’s performance was one; Tadhg Beirne’s another. Cian Healy had his best day in an Ireland shirt for some time; Andrew Porter put in an impressive shift, too, as indeed did Henderson, returning to an Ireland shirt after an injury plagued season. “While I was excited to see us get a full rattle at a game today, the frustrating thing was that we did not have 15 players for the entire game.,” he said. “So I look forward to when we do get that chance.”

iain-henderson-competes-in-the-air-with-adam-beard Henderson competes with Adam Beard in the line-out. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

At half-time – Ireland leading 13-6 – it looked as though the 14 were in the market for a miracle, the second quarter being the best rugby we have seen in the Farrell era. In spite of the numerical disadvantage, they were playing sensibly and effectively.

“If someone painted this scenario to me before the game, saying if someone got a card early on, I would have expected everyone to dig in the way they did,” said Henderson. “That’s the type of group that we are, that is the type of friends we have become. That shows in our training.

“Johnny (Sexton) just spoke in the dressing room afterwards about how frustrating it is to show glimpses of what we are going to become. Now we got to start playing like the team we can.

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“To perform a man down against a quality Welsh side was good.”  

You’d imagine it will be easier next weekend when the numbers are restored to 15-a-side; yet the flip side to that argument is that France are a considerably stronger team now than they were two years ago. Ireland, we must add, are noticeably weaker. “Next weekend will give a huge pointer of what direction the tournament is going to go and how teams are shaping up against each other,” said Henderson.

For Ireland, the safety net has just been removed. More often than not you can get away with one defeat in this championship and still end up with the title. But lose again and the only thing Ireland can realistically aim for is a top-half finish.

“Imagine if we had have had an extra man (yesterday),” said Henderson. “We need to review the video. Now I know that will be difficult for some people to watch, whereas for others it will give them real confidence going forward.

“This next game is going to be massive for us. It is our first home international of the calendar year, and all being well, we will front up.”

They have little choice. Lose and this will be a long winter.

France, despite their poor record in Dublin, won’t be fearful.

“Last year I think we saw where they were going to; the team they are growing into. For France rugby it is very exciting. We see a lot of their players in the Top 14 doing incredibly well. At Ulster we have experienced their half-backs and how class they are. Obviously watching a few other players from different clubs you do see how well they are gelling and coming together. That is something that will spur us on, something we will look to target.”

Originally published at 06.49

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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