Ireland lock Iain Henderson. Billy Stickland/INPHO

'It has honestly been the most enjoyable rugby of my life'

Iain Henderson is confident that Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls have left a legacy.

IRELAND LOCK IAIN Henderson says playing for Andy Farrell’s team in recent seasons has been the most enjoyable rugby of his life despite the pain of last weekend’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.

The Irish team were greeted by fans at Dublin Airport on their return home yesterday and though regrets will linger about the World Cup exit, Ulster captain Henderson is adamant that this period has been a brilliant time for Farrell’s squad.

“It’s been amazing, it has honestly been the most enjoyable rugby of my life,” said Henderson.

“Working with those guys day in, day out. We train hard and at the same time you come off the pitch, be it with a coach or other players, you have craic, you have enjoyable times. You go out for dinner together, for a glass of wine together, beers together. 

“At the same time, you know that when it comes time to work, everyone works and comes off together. It’s been phenomenal.”

Ireland were left hugely disappointed on Saturday night in Paris as they came up short of the Kiwis on a 28-24 scoreline, with much of the dejection stemming from the fact that they couldn’t win it for retiring captain Johnny Sexton and wing Keith Earls.

“In one way, we were upset about the result but were also celebrating Johnny and Earlsy’s careers at the same time,” said Henderson.

“Faz definitely acknowledged them and the guys have been cornerstones of what Faz has been building within the Ireland camp over the last number of months and years.

“But what they’ve done will be a definite foundation for what comes next in Irish rugby and the younger cohort of the squad will have taken a huge amount of their rugby learnings from those guys.

irelands-joe-mccarthy Ireland lock Joe McCarthy. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“Look, I don’t think any player will say they are not proud of what the team has achieved. However, it is still relatively surreal at the minute that that’s it for this group.

“This group’s superpower is getting around each other, enjoying good and bad times together, and we’ll make sure that Earlsy and Johnny will have the end of their career celebrated.”

Henderson himself is still only 31 and is on a central IRFU contract through until 2025 so he will be part of the plans moving forward, while he’s convinced that Sexton and Earls’ legacy will be crucial in the new era.

“Johnny and Earlsy have been able to show to the younger lads the qualities that are required to be a top, top-class player,” said Henderson.

“I’m sure the learnings that those guys will take will definitely lay a firm foundation for the Irish squads of the future.

“The guys in their early 20s were born in the 2000s, it pains me to say. Joe McCarthy, Jack Crowley, they have huge occasions ahead of them and hopefully they’ll build on nights like [the All Blacks game] to be able to potentially deliver on the big stage in the future.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel