Henderson 'privileged' to be captain as Ireland look to put the boot in France

Skills coach Richie Murphy noted the importance of ‘making sure to play in the opposition half as much as possible’ against Les Bleus.

Henderson at his captain's run today.
Henderson at his captain's run today.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A NEW CAPTAIN almost always comes out of necessity. One leader falls by the wayside and another is thrust up to the front.

Iain Henderson has been honing his captaincy credentials since Rory Best signalled his exit from Ulster and this weekend the 28-year-old take up the mantle as Ireland skipper.

He is the third lock to lead the national team as a new captain in the past 10 years – after Leo Cullen and James Ryan – and the fourth new captain Ulster man this century – after David Humphreys, Simon and Rory Best.

The honour is always a difficult thing to celebrate given the added pressure, but ordinarily it does at least present an opportunity to mark a serious career landmark in the company of family. Henderson will have to wait a little longer than the full-time whistle to embrace his family as captain of Ireland.

“My family are delighted from back home, they’ve been on the phone and FaceTime, they’re really proud as well. It’s frustrating not to have them there but they’re delighted,” Henderson told IRFU TV.

With Andy Farrell’s more recognised leaders decimated by the absence of James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and the team’s dominant personality Jonathan Sexton, Henderson says the head coach named leaders in the pack and the back-line with Garry Ringrose the allotted vice captain.

As with any new captain in recent seasons, Henderson says the collective unit will help shoulder the burden of responsibility.

“Look, it’s a massive honour and privilege. Faz came up to me and said that myself and Ringer would be leading the team tomorrow, I definitely jumped at the opportunity with both hands.

“The guys have prepared so well that they’ve given me all the confidence I need to lead the team.“

The odds are against Henderson starting his tenure on a winning note. However, while personnel availability, form and momentum are in France’s favour. History remains against Les Bleus whose international inconsistency over the past decade is perfectly illustrated by their run without a win in Dublin since 2011.

To beat them on Lansdowne Road again, Ireland will bid to turn them around.

“The French are a top class side, big physical side,” said skills coach Richie Murphy after today’s captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium,  “something we’ll have to be conscious of, moving them around a little bit.”

Mercifully, Murphy had no further injuries to report after today’s run-out and he signalled that the inclement weather will have Ireland leaning on their kicking options.

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billy-burns-with-richie-murphy Richie Murphy and Billy Burns at today's captain's run. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s important to control field position in the game and limit mistakes in your end,” says Murphy.

“It’s one of those (areas that) our half-backs will give us direction on. Everyone is involved in the decision-making process and making sure to play in the opposition half as much as possible.

“Losing Johnny and Conor is a big loss for any team, but we’re really excited to see Billy (Burns) and Jamison (Gibson-Park) take the field. Those guys have trained really well over the last few weeks and we’re hoping for a big performance.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey preview Ireland-France and give their thoughts on an eventful week from Cardiff onwards:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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