Sunday 22 April 2018

'It's not all doom and gloom - we have to move on'

Henderson eager to soothe World Cup pain as he recovers from surgery

The dust may seemingly be starting to settle on Ireland's whimpering World Cup exit but the disappointment is still very much evident in the voice of Iain Henderson.

In a tournament that promised so much yet delivered so little, the emergence of Henderson was one of the few positives to surface from the wreckage.

Life after Paul O'Connell begins now but Henderson's performances at the World Cup have at least given some cause for optimism going forward.

To compound what has been a bitterly frustrating couple of weeks for the 23-year-old, he underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a ligament in his hand and faces up to six weeks on the sidelines.


It's a minor setback for a player who was hitting top form during the World Cup, but ever the optimist, the Ulster powerhouse knows the timing could have been a lot worse.

"It's frustrating not being able to get back straight back into it this week," he admitted.

"Some guys prefer a longer break but I was scheduled to come off the bench (for Ulster) tonight so it's very disappointing.

"I guess if I had picked up this injury in one of the warm-up games, I would have missed to World Cup so in all, it's not the worst time for it to happen. I got my finger caught in a jersey, it was just one of those unfortunate things.

"I was able to pop it back in myself but it came out again. I was trying to avoid what happened Dave Kearney when his was shown on the big screen!

"The surgery went well. It was actually very bizarre, I went in to meet the surgeon and he asked me if I wanted a local or a general anaesthetic so I went with the local.

"I told him I was a bit worried about fainting but I was lying down for it anyway so he said I'd be alright!

"He gave me a couple of injections and I was just watching him slicing away at my hand. He was able to show me where I'd ripped the ligament off the bone.

"I thought I'd be squeamish but I actually found it very interesting."

Not much fazes Henderson, which is probably why despite his relative inexperience at international level, he was one of Ireland's standout players at the World Cup.

The Irish players' focus may have switched back to their clubs but as Henderson explained, they are only too aware that a brutal video session with Joe Schmidt awaits them when the squad reconvenes after Christmas ahead of the Six Nations.

"It's always disappointing when you lose massive games and get knocked out of tournaments but it's important that you don't dwell on it and that you move on," Henderson maintained.

"I wouldn't say there was too much emphasis on the France game. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible and that probably built it up twice as much as we had done in our heads.

"When you add in that we lost leaders like Paulie (O'Connell) and Johnny (Sexton), as well as Pete (O'Mahony) who had been playing so well, it did take a toll on us.

"We haven't reviewed the Argentina game as a squad yet. There was no real mention or analysis of it afterwards.

"Everything stops now with Ireland until after Christmas and I think Joe just wants players to be fully concentrating on their clubs.

"There was no point in him probing guys straight after the game. I'm sure when we get back into camp before the Six Nations, we will fix those problems then."

Despite the disappointment of yet another premature Irish exit on the world stage, Henderson is going to take the positives away from it, especially from a personal point of view.

"You have to have a certain level of self-appraisal. I was happy with how I performed but I know that there is always work-ons. My breakdown work still needs to improve," he said.

"I always feel like I play better when I have a run of games under my belt and Joe allowed me that in the warm-up games. I think I was able to use it as a springboard and kick on from there.

"I think I've become more comfortable playing with a different group of players at a much higher level.

"I'm well able to keep up with the pace of international games now and I've realised the extra physical edge that you need to bring to international rugby.

"It's important to take stock and realise that it's not all doom and gloom. Lots of players did perform really well and will be back again."

Irish Independent

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