Friday 22 February 2019

"Robbie Henshaw looks set to light up the Six Nations"

Great to see other Connacht players also in Irish squad and set to impress

Rob Henshaw - He's got all the attributes to be a star and he's coping really well with the amount of pressure that's now on his shoulders (Sportsfile)
Rob Henshaw - He's got all the attributes to be a star and he's coping really well with the amount of pressure that's now on his shoulders (Sportsfile)
Eoin McKeon - "He really took his chance against the Saxons as well. It's about time he got some international recognition - he has been so good for so long at Connacht and finally he is getting noticed"

Johnny O'Connor

It is a massive couple of weeks for Irish rugby and it's great to see the Connacht guys in and around the set-up with big intentions of making an impact on the Six Nations.

Robbie Henshaw is the name on everyone's lips right now, and I reckon he'll make his name all over the rugby world in these championships.

He's got all the attributes to be a star and he's coping really well with the amount of pressure that's now on his shoulders.

Before the autumn internationals there was talk of him not being able to live up to the expectations, and everyone saw what he did then. All the worries about filling the No 13 shirt is gone now - he could well play a huge part in both the centre positions in the Six Nations.

He is a rock in the Irish midfield and I think he will be for years to come. I can't wait to see what he does in these games.

While it wasn't a great result for the Irish Wolfhounds, I was delighted to see the three Connacht representatives perform quite well. Ireland didn't click but when it comes to 'A' games, that can happen.

Going into those Wolfhounds v Saxons games you're not preparing with the guys around you week in and week out, so it definitely shows on the field. It had a real 'week one' feel: the teams are often just thrown together and when that happens there is no room for individual flair, but when lads try too hard, often the team perspective can fly out the window.

When players are fighting for positions, especially with the Six Nations around the corner, they have a natural tendency to play like individuals. You are told going out there to make an impression but sometimes subconsciously you take that to heart and don't play as a team.

On the other side of things, with the championships starting on Saturday for Ireland, they didn't want to go out and hammer the Saxons having used every trick in the play book.

We know all about Joe Schmidt's fantastic first-phase plays and Ireland couldn't let future opposition in on what they have up their sleeve.

Smart

So it was smart in that sense and a lot of players got a decent run out - Keith Earls got a full 80 minutes under his belt, while Sean O'Brien came back with a bang.

He stole all the headlines on the night and it was great to see him back playing for Ireland after such a long lay-off. He is such an impact player and is indispensable for the team.

But for the guy who replaced him in the second half, what can you say? Eoin McKeon is a monster at No 7; behind O'Brien I think Eoin is the second biggest openside in the Pro12. He really took his chance against the Saxons as well. It's about time he got some international recognition - he has been so good for so long at Connacht and finally he is getting noticed.

Then you have Kieran Marmion, who started the game and gave a fine display. He has been a shining star for Connacht for a couple of years now and he is one of the best scrum-halves out there.

Nathan White is another class act - he didn't get much time against the Saxons but it is obvious he is high up in Joe Schmidt's plans. He can definitely hold up a scrum and he did exactly that last Friday.

He was a great capture when Connacht managed to coax him over from Leinster a few years back and to have him signed on for a few more years is a huge coup.

Nathan is a very intelligent player and the type of guy you need in your squad. He has a head for the game and is never afraid to voice his opinion, but he leads in the right way as well. He demands a higher level of excellence from the guys around him.

It remains to be seen how big a role he will have as the competition goes on, but that run-out in Cork will definitely have helped his case. I know Joe Schmidt is top dog and has made his calls, but this would be my team to take on Italy.

Ireland - Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Robbie Henshaw, Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Nathan White; Mike McCarthy (I'd be getting a text if he wasn't in here), Paul O'Connell; Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Irish Independent

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