Wednesday 17 July 2019

Henry talks up O'Brien's versatility as he looks to stake claim for starting berth

Chris Henry (pictured) gave his backing to Sean O'Brien, noting his talent in openside play
Chris Henry (pictured) gave his backing to Sean O'Brien, noting his talent in openside play Newsdesk Newsdesk

Chris Henry has backed his main Ireland rival Sean O'Brien to mix it with the very best openside flankers at the World Cup.

Australia boast two natural No 7s, David Pocock and Michael Hooper working in devastating tandem so far, while England captain Chris Robshaw has long been lambasted as lacking a scavenger's instinct.

Ulster's breakdown specialist Henry will make his first World Cup start against Romania at Wembley tomorrow, desperate to state his case for further inclusion in Ireland's campaign.

Henry is keen to challenge the established back-row unit of Peter O'Mahony, Jamie Heaslip and O'Brien in Joe Schmidt's side - but also threw his weight behind Leinster wrecking ball O'Brien when it comes to openside play.

"People say Sean O'Brien isn't a natural openside but Seany can play everywhere," said Henry.

"I've seen Seany, in that Scotland game in the Six Nations, absolutely bully the breakdown - he made four turnovers in that game. So when people say he's not a natural No 7 I think it's just because he's capable of doing everything.

"I don't know what the answer is in terms of opensides, but every team is going to be different.

"Obviously it works very well for Australia, but for me all I can do is hopefully make sure Joe sees what I can bring.

"The back-row in Ireland is ridiculously competitive, with Tommy O'Donnell and Rhys Ruddock being out injured, and you still have Jordi Murphy and everyone else. It's fierce.

"I just hope that every time I take the field I can add something and that Joe's happy with me.


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"That's all I can do and any time I get a green shirt, I love it."

Ireland have made 12 changes from the side that thumped Canada 50-7 to open the World Cup for their clash with Romania.

Tommy Bowe slots back in on the wing - in the process becoming the only survivor from the last Ireland side to face Romania, in a 43-12 victory in Dublin back in November 2005. Ulster team-mate Henry admitted he would give 31-year-old Bowe some light-hearted ribbing for unwittingly ending up the old man of Ireland's piece.

"It just shows how old he is," joked Henry. "And we can give him plenty of stick for that.

"Tommy's the kind of person who gets really excited to start. It was disappointing for him to miss out against Canada last week of course, and this is now a great chance for him. I don't know if Tommy will remember that game from 10 years ago, but I'll make sure that I give him a bit of craic down on the bus and remind him of how old he actually is."

Irish Independent

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