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Thursday 27 April 2017

We need adjustments - not total change, says Henderson

Ireland's Iain Henderson. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Iain Henderson. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland will seek to derail England's well-oiled machine but Iain Henderson insists they must do so without inventing their own set of wheezing wheels.

Amidst growing frustration that Ireland remain predictable, prone to recidivist errors in attack and defence, as well as stale in selection, Henderson is adamant that Ireland still have the tools at their disposal to unhinge England's charging chariot.

A prime example cited by critics is Ireland's increasing anxiety at attacking set-piece when, after refusing three-point kicks at goal, Joe Schmidt's side have repeatedly gambled - and failed - to produce a five- or seven-point return.

Sheepishly On seven such occasions, Ireland retreated sheepishly from Welsh territory last Friday night without profit; when they finally did so, they were pinged for a technical infringement.

But Henderson believes that Ireland must persist with a tactic that, having proved so profitable against New Zealand in Chicago, is now struggling to produce the same results.

"No, I don't think so, we have to back our set-piece," said Henderson, when directly asked should Ireland begin to kick more penalty goals.

"Over the past number of years, we have had a good maul and there have been a few bits and pieces which haven't quite worked out the way we have wanted them to.

"There was a late lift at a crucial stage last Friday, they turn it over. Before, we have completely nailed those set-pieces and worked well off them.

"See how close we got from scoring of the maul later on in the game where we got that rather unlucky penalty against us.

"We are going to back ourselves to do that, there is no point in not trying to back ourselves. We need points to win the game.

"However, we will take the points if they are given to us early on in the game, if we need to put three on the board. That is up to our game managers to decide when and why we go for the maul or the points."

While there is understandable frustration outside the camp at how this campaign has transpired, Henderson asserts that, even if radical changes were contemplated, it would be foolhardy to implement anything in the final week of a Championship, with only limited training time available.

Schmidt may have to re-assess his approach this summer, away from the bright lights on a summer tour to Japan when the media and public glare will be at its dimmest.

Tinkering now is too fraught with risk.

"It's a few little things, making sure everyone has their role right and then the final outcome is the one we are looking for.

"We are concentrating this week, we know why the drives haven't worked, we can pick out why that has happened.

"Problems will happen if you try to rebuild the wheel. There's no point. We will stick to our game-plan.

Progressing "We won't become a bad team overnight. We're not a bad team. It's difficult to change things when you don't have a huge amount of time together.

"So it's progressing things as time moves along, adding slight alterations to moves. There will never be a complete overhaul."

Henderson is even doubtful whether much can be achieved even on a summer tour when Schmidt would have breathing space.

"Personally, I think we'd never have the time, it wouldn't be worthwhile and efficient in a one-week camp before a summer tour, an autumn international or a Six Nations game, with maybe less than a week beforehand to get everyone in together and get it running well.

"There's no point in that and what we have isn't broken, it's just a matter of making slight adjustments and getting detail into it."

Irish Independent

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