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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 22 January, 2020

'I don't know if the lineout was too bad': Henderson focuses on the positives

The Ulster second row had a strong game against Argentina, but the lineout struggles were a cause for concern.

AS FAR AS auditions go, this may not quite have been the night Iain Henderson wanted seven days out from the All Blacks, but that’s not to say the Ulster second row didn’t front up in typically combative fashion.

Ireland’s struggles at the lineout, and indeed at the restart, only served to heighten Devin Toner’s worth as he sat on the bench, but Henderson’s influence grew as the game wore on.

Iain Henderson and Keith Earls with Ramiro Moyano Henderson misjudges a restart. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

There were a number of lineout malfunctions that wasted strong scoring opportunities against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium, most notably in the first period when James Ryan uncharacteristically fumbled a transfer from Henderson while his calling was far from faultless.

While Ireland enjoyed huge dominance at the scrum, Mario Ledesma’s decision to field three second rows by deploying Guido Petti at openside flanker caused the hosts disruption and frustration. 

“I don’t know if the lineout was too bad,” Henderson said post-match, when asked what went wrong.

“They got good aerial pressure on and selected a second row playing back row for that reason. We won quite a few balls off them and put a bit of pressure on towards the tail of our lineout.

“They’re a good team and we know that’s where they put pressure on teams. I thought our maul when we get it set went well and I thought maybe a few calls could have gone our way, but I’m just glad to get the win in the end.”

Joe Schmidt’s side stuttered for large periods of the November Test, the hosts unable to impose their game on the Pumas and although they outscored Ledesma’s side three tries to one and pulled clear for an 11-point win, huge improvements are required. 

“The Argentinians brought what we assumed they’d bring,” the 26-year-old continued.

A big physical pack, tough set piece, flair out wide and breaking tackles in midfield. I thought the guys fought really well in defence on their line breaks and we worked our tries well.

“There were a few things that probably didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to. We expected that to happen with the way they play. They’re very disruptive and if you don’t play off the cuff of them a wee bit, the way they play, you’re not going to get the rewards you’re looking for.”

Although Henderson’s otherwise excellent display was pockmarked by those lineout struggles and uncertainty under consecutive restarts, the Ulster lock showed huge physicality throughout his 57-minute performance, driving carriers back while making 11 tackles.

On the ball, his ability to get past multiple opposition forwards ensured there was front foot ball for Ireland, before he was replaced by Toner.

Iain Henderson wins a line out Henderson rises to claim a lineout for Ireland. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Brodie Retallick in ominous form for the All Blacks on his return from injury at Twickenham, Ireland will need to rediscover their form at the lineout for next Saturday’s clash against Steve Hansen’s side, with the expectation that Toner will start alongside man of the match James Ryan.

The introduction of the 32-year-old Leinster second row coincided with Ireland regaining their composure, significantly in the build up to Luke McGrath’s game-clinching try after Peter O’Mahony stole Argentinian ball. 

Ireland will begin their preparations for the All Blacks at Carton House this morning when Schmidt’s squad return to the training paddock, with Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose both due to return to the frame after injury.

There is also the possibility Conor Murray will link back up with the national team at their Kildare base, after Schmidt refused to rule the scrum-half out of a remarkable return against the world champions. 

“If Conor were to come back in I have no doubt in my mind that he would be back firing on all cylinders if he steps back in to play,” Henderson added.

“But we just have to wait and see how his fitness is, how he slots back in to the training regime. And if that’s going to happen, brilliant, but if it doesn’t, we’ve got three scrum-halves there, any of whom will step up to the challenge if selected.

“Murray has been a massive part of our game over the last few years, he’s a quality player. But Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath have both stepped in and done a great job, with both scoring tries.

“We have quality players there, and they all know how to play the game we want to play. Joe has full confidence in all of them as well.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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