Sunday 22 September 2019

Ireland won't feel burden of expectation after All Black win - Henderson


Iain Henderson. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Iain Henderson. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Ireland second-row Iain Henderson says the team will not feel any additional weight of expectation as a result of their win over New Zealand.

After the game, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen challenged Joe Schmidt's side to handle the pressure of being the World Cup front-runners as next year's tournament firmly comes into view.

Although a first win over the world champions on home soil was a significant coup for the Six Nations champions, Henderson pointed out that they had already beaten all of their rivals during this World Cup cycle and have come to expect big performances and results.

"Imagine if England had scored two or three extra points last week, would it have increased the target on their back?" he pondered.

"I think winning at the weekend isn't just the thing that's increased the targets on our backs or increased what people think of us. It's been mounting for a while.

"It was just another rung in the ladder at the weekend.

"For people to assume that Ireland now are a better team, I don't think that's unrealistic and I don't think that people playing against us would think much differently about that.

"They would realise we have had good performances over the last couple of years, which we have, so automatically they will be saying 'flip, they're getting better and better'.

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"If you look over the past number of seasons, there hasn't been anyone we haven't been able to beat.

"We knew in the back of our head that we're able to do it. It's a reassurance in a way, you know if you put in the hard work that you will get rewards for it and the rewards are sitting there to be taken."

After missing the November internationals, Conor Murray returned to full training with Munster yesterday as Leinster ruled Robbie Henshaw out for 4-6 weeks and Seán O'Brien for up to three months after arm surgery.

Henshaw's hamstring issue is a particular concern to the province who are already light on midfielders with Joe Tomane and Rory O'Loughlin sidelined.

Dan Leavy will miss this week's final Test against the United States and has been released to Leinster along with Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Rob Kearney, James Ryan and Jordan Larmour.

Kieran Marmion is back with Connacht.

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