Italy ought to beware Henderson’s ‘mutant strength’ — Trimble

The young Ulster forward is keen to prove he is much more than just an impact sub.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

PETER O’MAHONY HAS been one of Ireland’s players of the Championship through three games of this year’s Six Nations, but few will be too concerned that a hamstring injury has forced Joe Schmidt to keep him sidelined for Saturday’s Test against Italy.

There is one very large reason for that, Iain Henderson.

6′ 6″ and weighing in somewhere north of 18 stone, the adaptable Ulster forward is a completely different player to the Munster flanker; a man torn between operating at second row and blindside with carrying and tackling among his main attributes above clinical breakdown interventions.

However, with a level of physicality that really doesn’t suit his tender years (and baby face), nobody among the Ireland squad will be fretting over the safety of the incoming number six.

“He’s the man-child,” says Henderson’s Ulster teammate Andrew Trimble, “he’s got mutant strength for a 22-year-old and he’s still got to fill out.

“He’s already unbelievable, and at this stage he’s already pretty influential when he gets his hands on the ball. He’s gonna make an impact on Saturday, definitely.”

Henderson is keen to shake off the tag of ‘impact sub’ that his physicality and footwork has earned him and this weekend represents his latest foot-in-the-door opportunity.

Two weeks on from his 22nd birthday, he can look back at a Six Nations campaign where he began as the team’s 24th man, but was granted opportunities to shine at the expense of the injured or ill –  Paul O’Connell, Dan Tuohy and, now, O’Mahony.

“Iain takes everything in his stride. I’ve never seen him unbelievably happy and I’ve never seen him unbelievably disappointed. He’s just steady. I’ve never really seen a lot of emotion out of him.

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That composure is certainly appreciated by Joe Schmidt, says Trimble and the details driven coach has apparently only sought a higher work-rate from the technically sound Henderson.

“He just gets on and does the job,” Trimble adds, “coming from training; the way Joe gets on with him, he seems to be someone that Joe likes a lot. It’s easy to appreciate all the stuff he brings to the game.”

Speaking to after winning his first starting berth since the tour of North America last summer, Henderson was calm, the team announcement long since settled in:

“I’m absolutely loving it – it was my aim at the start of the season to try and work into the squad. Unfortunately I was injured [for November], that was disappointing. Then I had to work to try to get myself back fit for the Six Nations selection.

“Unfortunately for Paulie, he was sick in the first match and I ended up getting a bench jersey there and then Dan Tuohy broke his arm, my opportunity’s come and I’m gonna take it.”

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