Tuesday 21 November 2017

Lions centre Robbie Henshaw ready for whatever 'niggle' New Zealand want to take onto the field of play

Robbie Henshaw
Robbie Henshaw

Daniel Schofield

Robbie Henshaw, the Lions and Ireland centre, says that he will relish facing whatever “niggle” comes his way in New Zealand.

If rugby is a game of light and shade then the All Blacks have proven to be masters of both. No other team are capable of producing such heavenly rugby, but that does not preclude them from committing acts of thuggery.

The most pertinent example was the spear tackle perpetrated by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu that ended Brian O’Driscoll’s tour 41 seconds into the 2005 series. Henshaw, too, had first-hand experience of the All Blacks’ less angelic side in Ireland’s 21-9 defeat in Dublin last year in which he, C J Stander and Rob Kearney were withdrawn for head injury assessments amid a barrage of high tackles.

Rather than bleat about the rough treatment, Henshaw is eagerly anticipating another chance to go toe to toe with the All Blacks. “It’s all part of it,” Henshaw said. “To have that bit of niggle in rugby is needed and it gets both teams going. Me personally, I do like a bit of niggle in the game and it makes it more exciting to be involved in. The higher the physicality, the better for me.”

New Zealand’s conduct in Dublin was undoubtedly influenced by their first-ever loss to Ireland in Chicago two weeks previously, which ended a record 18-win streak.

“We tried to prime ourselves for what was to come and the onslaught as they were hurting from the first game,” Henshaw said. “It’s going to be similar down there and we need to try our best to get off to a great start and do the business on them. There’s a lot of work to be done before then. Mentally we need to be prepared, it’ll be a mental ­battle down there.”

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