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Grace, traces of Twickenham and past glories kept Henshaw going while rugby was on hold

The old cliche about only being is good as your last game was best ignored by Ireland players these past six months.

Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has revealed the new Ireland Rugby Home and Alternate jerseys that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season.
Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has revealed the new Ireland Rugby Home and Alternate jerseys that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season.

HOPEFULLY IRELAND’S FRONTLINE internationals haven’t placed much stock in hoary old sporting cliches this year.

Because that pesky ‘only as good as your last game‘ thing would be a tricky concept to wrestle with over the course of six months between their latest loss to England in Twickenham and this weekend’s restart.

Having won his first two games in charge, Andy Farrell took his team to London for the Six Nations’ third round on 23 February hoping to banish memories of the woeful World Cup warm-up loss to Eddie Jones’ supercharged side.

Instead, a comprehensive 24-12 loss compounded the record loss to England last August. And as we approach its anniversary, there has been precious little opportunity for Farrell to move Ireland away from the loss that seemed to thoroughly derail World Cup plans.

Robbie Henshaw was among the men playing for Six Nations points last time out and he was itching to get a chance to take out some frustration of defeat out on Italy or France. But sport shut down and the review of Twickenham ramped up again.

“For everyone, we really wanted to get back and right the wrongs of that game and go fix it,” says Henshaw, speaking as a Canterbury ambassador as they launched the new Ireland kit.

That sentiment will still hold true when Ireland do eventually take the field to face Italy on 24 October, their sense of frustration can’t be allowed fester any longer with competitive matches and trophies to divert attention and efforts towards in provincial colours.

“With lockdown, we got to analyse that game. We got to go back through it, break it up into micro-detail in terms of where we could have fixed issues that went wrong and where we’d change if we were to play that game again in the morning, how we’d change it and what we’d do differently.”

a-disappointed-dave-kilcoyne-keith-earls-jacob-stockdale-robbie-henshaw-and-ultan-dillane-after-the-game-2322020 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Neither England match found its way to the rebroadcast schedule for TV stations desperate to fill prime time weekend slots with sport to get chins wagging over the summer. But the matches that did make the screen were warmly received by Henshaw as he readily accepted the armchair role and watched some big occasions back from the vantage point of a fan.

“I didn’t go too much into detail. When they were shown (on TV) it was great to look back at them and all the great games, great performances in green, Leinster… and the Connacht (2016) final was shown as well at one stage.”

Ample material to reload the confidence if it had been left flat midway through the Six Nations. Mind you, life at home doesn’t always let confidence swell too far. More often touching the roots is a leveller, a reminder of who and where you came from.

That’s what Henshaw enjoyed most about rugby’s hiatus, a rare chance to spend time back home.

“I moved out of the house when I was 17 or 18, moved to Galway and hadn’t spent more than three weeks with the family.

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“That was the beauty about it, we were all back together, nearly like back to school days.

“Staying in a routine was a challenge, but reflecting on it, seeing people day to day, seeing school friends -at a distance – do a bit of training, bit of running with a cousin of mine and some good friends.

“We were doing three runs a week, following the Leinster running sessions. So they weren’t too happy with me, going through the gears each week, we were increasing the volume and it was definitely tough. It was great.

“Where I’m from we’re close enough to the lake so myself and my old man did a bit of fishing.

“Just went back to basics – I was trying to find a lot of things to do to keep my time occupied, the days kind of rolled on.

“One of the challenges i was put forward for was to learn a new tune on the piano. So I learned, Grace by the Wolfe Tones. That was one of them.

“Obviously missed sport big time, but it was a good way to look back and reflect on previous seasons and things that went on over the past few years.

“It was nice, but by the end of it everyone was itching to get back to normality.”

We still are.

Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has revealed the new Ireland Rugby Home and Alternate jerseys that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season.

It is a new era for Irish Rugby, and the latest technology is at the heart of the new Ireland Home and Alternate Test jerseys which are on sale now from Elverys.ie, in-store and on Canterbury.com.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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