Henderson: Ireland taking confidence from their new beginnings

Ireland feel they are right at the beginning of their ‘journey’.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

SUSPENSION KEPT IAIN Henderson from experiencing either the upsurge in confidence gained from Ireland’s win over Italy or the feeling a rug being swept from under the feet inflicted by France a week later.

The Ulster captain has been training in camp with the squad, however, keeping up to speed with a heated race for the top two lock positions and rowing in behind a squad that is still bubbling despite suffering that last-day defeat to France in the Six Nations.

The collective upbeat attitude, Henderson says, stems from the fresh start given to the team since Andy Farrell took over. It’s been over a year, but the new head coach is approaching just his sixth match in charge.

“I still think we’re very close to the beginning of our journey. I think a lot of guys do take confidence from that,” says the second row.

There is an energetic feel to this iteration of Ireland. There is a willingness to blood fresh talent in most areas with seven new caps already handed out this year and potentially three more to come in the weeks ahead. There is also the will to adapt the style of play and to install effort and attitude as a tent-pole in each week.

“(We) take confidence from how we’ve been prepping, what we’re doing in training. The excitement we have going into games and training is massive.

“It’s probably one of the best things about this squad. Going out on the pitch we’re excited to be playing with each other, we’re excited to be training, which brings enjoyment, and I think that’s massive and essential to a team.”

He adds: “The teams that do well are teams that (players) are excited to play in and enjoy.

As soon as it becomes a bit of a chore you see that coming out in people’s actions on the pitch. You see it coming in people’s actions in training.

“And, at the minute, everyone is really buzzing to play and buzzing to train. Enjoying the atmosphere and the environment of being around each other. That’s something that has been a massive driver and as I said feeding off each other and the competition is adding to that too.”

iain-henderson Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Henderson will hope to get the better of the competition this week and earn the nod to face Wales on Friday night. He can’t admit to relishing the prospect of facing Alun Wyn Jones, the record-setting second row is too good to enjoy playing against. But Henderson has roomed with the Welsh legend and will be braced to meet the challenge on what will be AWJ’s 150th Test appearance.

“He’s a great lad. He was insightful in almost everything you would chat to him about.

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“I really don’t like playing against him; it’s probably one of his biggest talents… I think when players don’t like playing against other players it’s almost a compliment to the kind of player they are.

“He obviously adds a fair bit of oomph to their pack, he is an absolute pest when it comes to breakdown and maul time.

“You know the scrum generally looks a bit stronger when he’s in behind there. In terms of the charisma that he brings to their team he’s obviously captained them a lot and has a lot of leadership qualities which you see coming out, not only for Wales and Ospreys, but you saw it coming out for the Lions.”

 “So those are things that he brings and trying to negate that is difficult because he is a resilient character who will continue to bring that no matter how the game is going for them.”

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Sean Farrell

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