Ulster star Iain Henderson determined to learn from Joe Schmidt
ADJUSTING to the ways of Joe Schmidt can take some time it seems, but by the sounds of things, it doesn't take long to learn what the Ireland coach expects of his players.
Having missed the November Internationals, Iain Henderson found out all about the New Zealander in the spring and, despite being warned by team-mates about what was coming, he still had to learn the hard way.
A former headmaster, Schmidt expects his players to have their homework done and for them to turn up for work ready to go.
"He caught me a good few times at the start when I was a little off guard," the young Ulster second-row said.
"I'd heard people talking about it. I was injured during the November series and I heard people talking about the detail required from the likes of Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson and all the boys who were down.
"I wasn't quite prepared or hadn't realised exactly what it was like and during the Six Nations games it came as a bit of a shock, whereas now I've had a whole Six Nations of it, so I knew what I was getting myself into.
"It just ensures you've got everything nailed off and, come match day, it makes you feel so much more comfortable about yourself.
"You might be a wee bit less comfortable during the week in training, you might be a bit nervous or what not, but come match day, you know your detail because there's no other option.
"It's all about detail with Joe, make sure everything is nailed off. There's no point in turning up to training if you don't know what your plays are."
Schmidt is a fan of the 22-year-old who already has 11 caps to his name and was so impressive for Ulster in recent months.
Still, there is room for improvement and the coach has a clear idea of what the lock needs to do.
"He's making progress. But, it's funny, you look at Donnacha Ryan or Devin Toner, there is something about the age of 26, 27 that a second-row starts to really develop into the type of player who can compete internationally," Schmidt said.
"To fast track someone like Iain Henderson as a kid is a difficult proposition for the player himself and the things we demand of him. If Paul (O'Connell)'s down or takes a knock and Iain has to suddenly call a line-out, he's got to know those line-outs inside out, he's got to read the defence that the Argentinians are putting up.
"Those are the unseen aspects that are a real challenge for somebody like Iain who is a natural ball-carrier, a naturally powerful kid, although not in the same realm as the Stephen Ferris or Sean O'Brien category, but he's a quality young player."
The difficulty presented to Henderson is the quality of second-row partner he regularly packs down with.
"If Johann goes off and Dan's on, Dan will be calling, so you mightn't get the opportunity to do that," he said. "So, I have been working on other aspects of my game, so maybe next year when Johann is away and there is only Dan there with a few others, I might get an opportunity to do that.
"It is just that I'm more happy with getting match minutes under my belt and that's why my performances started to get better towards the end of the season, because I was able to get into the game, because I had the 80 minutes under my belt."