Thursday 5 December 2019

Independent.ie Rugby Panel – We'll find out after 40 minutes if Payne and Henshaw are up to it

Independent Newsdesk

Independent Newsdesk

The Autumn Series gets underway this Saturday for Ireland with South Africa the first opponents. Independent.ie's Rugby Panel sat down to discuss the mouth-watering encounter.

The second best team in the world will take on the Six Nations champions at the Aviva Stadium and the biggest talking point has been Joe Schmidt's selection of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw in midfield.

Declan Whooley gathered the thoughts of Ruaidhri O'Connor and Neil Francis ahead of the Series opener and both admit that huge responsibility has been placed on the debutant Payne and thrice capped Henshaw.

"I'm not sure what they will give to midfield, they are both converted full-backs," Francis said.

"Offensively I think they will be okay, but defensively I think it will be the biggest ask of them. Henshaw is a big unit, defensively powerful, but it is whether Payne can actually trust him. It is all about trust and communication in midfield."

"I'm sure the Springboks will look at them and say 'can we make headway here?'. They will test them, certainly the way they are playing."

"We'll know after about 40-45 minutes whether they are defensively up to it."

O'Connor insisted that D'Arcy was never going to start after missing last week through injury and says life after Brian O'Driscoll in midfield was always going to raise many challenges.

"They only met for the first time in September and have only played against each other once and had just nine training sessions together, it's exciting but a huge unknown."

"If D'Arcy goes down in the first week of the World Cup or even week three when we have France on the Saturday, we have got to be ready for that." 

"If it doesn't work against South Africa on Saturday it is a blow, but it's no way fatal. There is still a lot of time to get things right before the World Cup."

Watch the full video to listen to their full analysis on the midfield dilemma, Ireland's strength in the back division and Simon Zebo's chance to impress on the wing.

Check out the second part of our exclusive  interview tomorrow where the panel discuss South Africa's strengths, the emergence of out-half Handre Pollard, the Irish game plan and the options on the respective benches for Joe Schmidt and Heyneke Meyer.

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