Tuesday 24 April 2018

Henshaw and White shine on biggest stage

Success for duo at world level can inspire next generation

Robbie Henshaw on the charge against France in Cardiff last Sunday
Robbie Henshaw on the charge against France in Cardiff last Sunday
It’s refreshing to see a player like Jack Dineen coming through the Connacht system

Johnny O'Connor

Ireland can't catch a break in the injury department, but luckily the boys are really performing on the field.

Against France they were absolutely immense. It was one of the best Irish displays I ever saw, but they really need to back it up again when they play Argentina on Sunday.

From a Connacht perspective Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White were fantastic - Robbie was arguably the player of the second-half.

He did some Trojan work all over the field, even with his work at the breakdown, he stood out. But I suppose his break that led to Rob Kearney's try highlighted his class.

He left Mathieu Bastareaud clutching fresh air, and throughout the game that was the case - this was a match where Robbie lit up the world stage for the first time.

Then Nathan came on for Mike Ross, and shored up the Irish scrum even further; they had been doing well up until then, but they excelled late on.

It's great to see the Connacht boys doing so well, and hopefully they can convert that back to the province when they return and inspire the next generation of players to aim that high.

But hopefully they won't be back for a good while yet - Ireland could be onto something special if they produce another display like they did against France in the quarter-final.

Ireland won every personal battle, and won every sector in the match; they hammered home their advantage at the breakdown and that was a key area for them.

Joe Schmidt would have had his players primed for this game for so long, and you can see what it meant to the likes of Ian Madigan afterwards.

And he was brilliant, he and Iain Henderson had to replace Johnny Sexton and Paul O'Connell - but they did it seamlessly.

So Ireland did well in nearly every facet of the play against France - maybe one area they could improve on is their distribution to the wider channels.

Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe didn't see that much ball until there was an up-an-under or they actually forced their way into the game, by stepping in off their wing.


Against Argentina, it will be another supremely physical encounter. The Argentines are a really big outfit - they are almost like the Italians but better, and we know how much Italy troubled us.

They are always in your face and you cannot give them opportunities because they will punish you. If they stay in the game like Italy did, I don't feel Ireland would survive a late onslaught from them.

But it's key that Ireland get ahead and build on their lead. Then hopefully Ireland can push on for victory as they did against France.

In my opinion Argentina are a more accomplished side than France, and tactics-wise they should be streets ahead, so they will be a huge threat.

It will be by no means easy; we have beaten them quite comfortably the last few times we played them, but when it comes to World Cups they are a different animal.

For Connacht, it is not a bad way to start a block of 16 fixtures like this - to have an Italian team, Zebre, at home.

They will look at this as a real chance to build confidence.

Hopefully the guys who are starting can do the damage, and then it might allow Pat Lam to use the bench that bit earlier.

Because, player management is going to be key over the next few months. Players won't be able to play every minute of every game - so this is a big opportunity for Connacht.

It is going to be very testing for the staff, because they need to keep things fresh without affecting the team's fluency, or the morale within the group.

We have seen what can happen in the World Cup in terms of injuries, and some of the hits are getting phenomenal now.

Squad players, who might not have been involved so much in the past, will play a crucial role for Connacht over this block, and it will be interesting to see how they adapt.

But for Connacht - this is a game where they can build up a head of steam. Another bonus-point win would be massive for the team, and would be an ideal start to a big weekend of rugby.

Irish Independent

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