ROBBIE HENSHAW found the step up to Test level a real challenge, but Ireland's newest international relished his first cap against the US Eagles and is now hoping his side can build on their narrow victory when they face Canada next weekend.
The 19-year-old became just the fourth teenager to play for Ireland in the professional age in Houston on Saturday, following Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Rhys Ruddock into an exclusive club.
He impressed in his physicality and might even have had a debut try to celebrate only to spill Fergus McFadden's pass early in the second half as the tourists eked out a 15-12 win over the Americans at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
Despite the narrow margin of victory, Henshaw was happy with how a young Irish team went about their triumph and is hoping for even better against Canada.
"We got the win in the end, that is what we wanted. We wanted a good performance, we did get a good performance and we have to build on that next week," he said.
"The Americans were extremely physical and we knew they would be with their centres and back-rows crashing it. I took a few big hits myself and I'm feeling it."
The Athlone native was also pleased with how he played on his first start for his country despite spurning a debut try.
"I was pretty happy with getting my first cap, my parents were there and I was happy with my performance, so, overall, I was happy," he said.
"I got into the game early with those hits and got going, unfortunately I got caught in the headlights and let the ball slip by me. It wasn't a knock-on, it slipped out of my hands and off my hip. I should have slowed up a small bit, the lights were shining down and my vision was blurred. These things happen and I need to learn from it.
"The conditions were pretty tough to play in and we prepared for that and knew what it was going to be like. Two teams had to play in it, at the same time, so we just had to get on with.
"Definitely, it was a big step higher than European or provincial rugby. It was a faster game, it was free-flowing and the hits were bigger. I felt comfortable at the start, got myself into the game and did what I usually do."
Ireland arrived in Toronto on Sunday evening ahead of Saturday night's meeting with the Canadians at BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC, with a record crowd expected.
They are carrying a couple of knocks from the physical battle with the US, with Chris Henry the major doubt after he suffered a deep gash over his eye during the second half. The Ulster openside will sit out contact training for the first half of the week.
Henshaw is another of the walking wounded after he landed heavily on his shoulder on Saturday, suffering a stinger, while McFadden needed three stitches to a wound and also jarred his neck. Captain Peter O'Mahony was in the wars and has elbow bruising, but all three are expected to recover.
Canada will be battle hardened after winning their third game in succession against Tonga on Saturday by 36-27.
Incoming Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is set to continue his watching brief having arrived on Friday, with Les Kiss remaining the man in charge on tour.
Looking ahead to the game, Ireland scrum-half Isaac Boss added: "It is important to build on the win (against USA), we have Canada now and it is important to sort out our breakdown and the frailties that the USA managed to exploit.
"It was good to play with the young guys, there is some great potential for the future."