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'The best prep you could have prior to a World Cup': Henshaw excited by series in NZ

The centre scored the try that sealed Ireland’s first ever win over the All Blacks and is looking forward to another clash.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ROBBIE HENSHAW HAD been training rather than following the news as it came out yesterday, so there was a genuine pleasant surprise to be seen when a question informed him he could get a chance to play a three-Test series against New Zealand in the years ahead.

There’s a lot of rugby to be played, water to be passed and injuries to be avoided before all that. But the man who sealed Ireland’s first ever win over the All Blacks is excited by the prospect of the 2022 tour.

“I haven’t heard that,” said the centre in a virtual press conference from Leinster’s UCD base,

“That’s definitely going to be massive for everyone who can be involved in that. There’s a massive amount of games to play over the next number of seasons so it’s great to have it on the  horizon and keep building towards it.”

Ireland toured New Zealand in 2012, losing the Test series 3-0 and ending with a record 60-0 loss to the then world champions in Hamilton.

Still, playing the perennial standard-bearers in the game more regularly can also serve to sharpen a team. Joe Schmidt’s Ireland took on the All Blacks twice in the space of three weeks in 2016, winning in Chicago and losing the return match in Dublin. The match is remembered for Beauden Barrett’s excellence, but also a string of dangerous Kiwi tackles – including one that left Henshaw needing to be stretchered off early.

Instead of reminiscing on that incident yesterday the Athlone man, who missed the 2018 win, was considering the tour as part of the lead-in to facing South Africa in the 2023 World Cup – where Ireland could well wind up facing New Zealand at the quarter-final stage.

“That’s the best prep you could have prior to a World Cup. You want to test yourself against the best in the world – the top teams in the world. I’ll definitely want to experience going down to New Zealand. It’s a different kettle of fish.”

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As for the challenge of facing the holders at the next World Cup, when Henshaw will be 30, the centre credited Rassie Erasmus’ work, but expressed little fear of the Springboks.

“We’ve played South Africa a lot in the last few years… so we know the challenge that they bring.

“They’ve definitely gotten better and better through the years, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them over the next few years.”

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Sean Farrell

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