Ireland lock Iain Henderson. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
main man

Iain Henderson on Ireland's plan to contain Finn Russell

The Ireland lock feels Gregor Townsend’s team are playing a more exciting brand of rugby this year.

IRELAND HEAD TO Murrayfield this weekend looking to make it eight straight wins against Scotland, but this time, it feels as though there is a greater sense of caution around the fixture.

Scotland have flattered to deceive in the past but across the opening three rounds of this year’s Six Nations, they have looked a more complete and formidable opponent. They roared out of the blocks with deserved wins against England and Wales before defeat in Paris, and will remain confident heading into Sunday’s clash against Ireland.

A home win would see Scotland land a first Triple Crown since 1990, and keep them in the mix for a first Six Nations title since 1999.

Speaking to the media in Abbotstown today, Ireland second row Iain Henderson outlined just why Ireland are anticipating their toughest test of this Six Nations yet when they visit Edinburgh on Sunday.

“I feel the (Scotland) pack has been getting on the frontfoot quite a lot,” Henderson said.

“With Finn Russell in there and their centres, I feel like they’re getting wide-wide and then when they’re going as wide as they are, defences are getting slightly more fractured and that’s where you see someone who is as dangerous as Finn Russell, if he doesn’t get the first thing he wants, he often finds something immediately after.

finn-russell-tackled-by-thibaud-flament Finn Russell is still the key man for Scotland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“We’ve seen clips of him getting kicks charged down, regathering and getting another perfect kick in, stepping back inside, finding a soft shoulder and throwing offloads.

“They’re playing with a confidence that grows them as the game goes on. I think they’re playing an exciting brand of rugby, I think that will add to the atmosphere.

“They have a back three which are excited to get on the ball, they’re all hunting to make those line breaks off Finn Russell, so that’s obviously we have to be aware of and it’s an exciting challenge for us and it’s up to us how we manage that.

I think they’ve been trying to build something there and I’ve been in teams where you’re trying to build something, and you can feel it internally, but maybe you’re not getting the full results and I felt that’s been Scotland in the year before this.

“You could see them in the last Six Nations showing glimpses of big games and big performances, but over the last six months you’ve seen them really tie these things together, and that’s probably why they’re an enormous threat for us this weekend.

“They definitely have been playing a more attractive brand of rugby and putting teams under massive pressure.”

When asked about plotting a plan to contain Russell, it’s interesting to hear Henderson flip the question back towards Ireland.

“I think a lot of when Finn Russell manufactures incredible moments that Scotland live off, it’s often down to a fault in defence or an issue there, and he’s incredibly good at exploiting that,” he explains.

“I think we need to ensure we iron out those faults, to not give him those soft shoulders to let the offload away or get the kick in. So focusing on our stuff and getting our stuff completely nailed on, be it the basics of our defence, communication, that sort of connection that hopefully shuts down a lot of those opportunites, and force him to try do stuff he might not necessarily be hugely comfortable doing.” 

iain-henderson Henderson during an Ireland training session in Abbotstown. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Henderson has some insight on how Scotland boss Gregor Townsend likes to set up his teams, having toured with the Lions in 2021 when Townsend was Warren Gatland’s attack coach.

The 31-year-old stresses that Townsend will have grown as a coach since then but the Ulster lock admits having that Lions experience can help create a greater understanding of what makes this Scotland team tick.

“If I look back two or three years ago to how we might have attacked this game slightly differently, I would be surprised if he (Townsend) is doing exactly the same thing.

“In this game you have to be constantly evolving so, yes, we have a few principles; we can see how wide Scotland like to play, those mismatches they try and create with Finn Russell and put players through holes, that’s stuff we have to be aware of and click into but we have had a look at their last few games and we are going to go off what we are seeing more than try and pre-empt what we think they might be doing from before.

“But similar to that, you do get feelings of other players and how they like to play, and we play loads of these players week-in, week-out (with the provinces), so we’re used to playing against them and it’s kind of about ensuring that we can bring the best version of ourselves as we know through our clubs, and hopefully do the job.” 

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

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