Monday 19 February 2018

Jamie Heaslip a huge loss but we'll cope, insists Iain Henderson

Jamie Heaslip fractured three vertebrae in Ireland's victory over France after being kneed by Pascal Pape. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Jamie Heaslip fractured three vertebrae in Ireland's victory over France after being kneed by Pascal Pape. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Iain Henderson has backed Ireland to overcome the loss of Jamie Heaslip and use their collective spirit to stop England's high-flying individuals.

The utility forward looks unlikely to find his way into the Ireland back-row for the Grand Slam eliminator on Sunday week with Jordi Murphy the favourite to replace Heaslip who fractured three vertebrae against France last Saturday after being kneed by Pascal Pape.

The France lock appeared before a disciplinary committee yesterday after being cited for the incident but does not yet know his fate after the hearing was adjourned last night. Heaslip has accepted the Pape's public apology.

While Ireland will lose one of their leaders, Henderson believes Ireland can thrive in the No 8's absence.

"We showed against Italy that we are able to play without him," he said. "Don't get me wrong, he's a massive loss, a senior player. We will miss him; however, I think we have the firepower to replace him and it will give some of the younger guys the opportunity.

"One thing that we like to target is our collective. They can be as big, individual and as aggressive as they want, but they won't beat our collective hits, our two-on-one tackles and how well we work as a team.

"That's one thing we have really going for us. We have a few big players, but we're not a massive nation physically, but with our aggression and our attitude we're able to dominate teams."

Henderson yesterday signed a new three-year deal with Ulster as the province announced four-year kit sponsorship deals with Kingspan and Bank of Ireland. Munster captain Peter O'Mahony has also committed to an IRFU contract for three years.

Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls sat out training in Galway yesterday, while Mike Ross took a limited part but they are all expected to be available to face England.

Irish Independent

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