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Iain Henderson 'incredibly honoured' to captain Gatland's Lions

The 29-year-old will lead the tourists against the Sharks on Wednesday.

Henderson will captain the Lions on Wednesday.
Henderson will captain the Lions on Wednesday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE LIONS HAVE been looking for leaders to step up in the wake of Alun Wyn Jones’ tour-ending injury and Ireland’s Iain Henderson is one of those who have answered the call.

The Ulster man will captain the Lions on Wednesday against the Sharks, having led his country for the first time in Test rugby earlier this year.

A standout performer in this year’s Six Nations, Henderson will also now be eyeing a place in the Lions Test side on what is his second tour, with Jones’ injury having opened up a slot in Warren Gatland’s probable team.

Henderson insists he hasn’t considered Test selection yet but he is very much looking forward to the experience of leading the Lions on Wednesday.

“I’m incredibly excited,” said Henderson today. “The lads have been preparing really well for it.

“Off the back of the game at the weekend, we had a really good session this morning and we’re looking forward to another one this afternoon. We’ve got our heads together and got a good game plan in place. Excitement is probably my overwhelming feeling.

“As Gats said, there are so many leaders in the squad. So many of these guys are leaders for their countries and clubs so I feel a fair sense that my job as the captain is that those guys are able to express themselves as best possible.

“For me personally, I’m just incredibly honoured to be able to do this and incredibly excited to be leading what I think is an incredible bunch of guys.” 

As for his decision to appoint Henderson as skipper this week, Lions boss Gatland pointed to the 29-year-old’s CV and said he had spoken to Ireland head coach Andy Farrell about the lock.

“Experience, being a previous Lions tourist, captain of Ulster and captain of Ireland as well,” said Gatland.

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“He just brings a calm approach to it and he’s well aware that there are other experienced players in the side and leaders in the side who are there to support him.

“There are a couple of other players who we could have looked but I just thought that Iain’s an obvious choice for us given his experience and stature in the game.

“I spoke to Andy Farrell during the Six Nations and he was full of praise for Iain’s leadership and what he was bringing to the Ireland side. That was a natural fit for us and a great honour for him too.”

Meanwhile, Gatland reiterated that Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring strain is only a “slight” one.

The Leinster and Ireland centre is due to miss the next two Lions games against the Sharks and the Bulls as Gatland aims to ensure he is fully fit ahead of the Test series.

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Murray Kinsella

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